Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals

SD Department of Corrections

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is again considering a South Dakota inmate's challenge to prison policies on pornography.

The appellate court heard the case in 2018 and sent it back to South Dakota federal court for a new approach to assessing the policy.

That new order was issued a year ago. The Department of Corrections disagreed with the federal district judge's findings and appealed. The Eighth Circuit heard those arguments last week.

Victoria Wicks reports on this case for SDPB.

A U.S. District Judge has found South Dakota's 2020 restrictions on petition circulators to be unconstitutional.

Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled earlier this week that Senate Bill 180 violates the First Amendment rights of initiated measure proponents, voters, and petition circulators.

SB 180 came about after another South Dakota U.S. District Judge, Charles Kornmann, found House Bill 1094 unconstitutional. That 2018 bill made a more aggressive attempt to rein in petition carriers.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a man who sued investigators and prosecutors in Meade County.

Oakley Engesser served 12 years in prison before being exonerated by witnesses who were not brought to trial to testify.

Engesser says the investigation and prosecution were so flawed that they violated his constitutional rights. But the Eighth Circuit disagrees.

Victoria Wicks reports for SDPB.

U.S. Attorney for SD

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Timothy Burns, one of two men who defrauded investors in a proposed fish and hydroponic produce farm near Brookings.

At oral arguments in October 2020, the U.S. Attorney laid out a daring scheme that started in 2016.

Victoria Wicks has this report for SDPB.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the rape conviction of a South Dakota man.

At trial, the federal prosecutor brought in an expert witness to tell what characteristics a rape victim might display.

But the judge would not allow the defense to allege that the victim's trauma might have come from an earlier rape.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB.

Public Justice, Arkansas State Legislature, Lax Vaughan Lawfirm

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held a special session on Thursday, Feb. 25, to hear arguments on the constitutionality of an "ag gag" law in Arkansas.

The ensuing decision applies to the states within the Eighth Circuit, which includes South Dakota.

Animal rights activists say the Arkansas law chills First-Amendment protected speech of whistleblowers and journalists who expose animal cruelty in agricultural operations.

Victoria Wicks has more on this case for SDPB.

A federal inmate appealing his case before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals says it's hard to get a jury of peers in Indian Country.

Eli Erickson was convicted of meth and gun charges in 2019.

None of the potential jurors identifying as Native made the cut.

Erickson's lawyer says one problem is that in small rural reservation communities, everybody knows everybody in one way or another.

Victoria Wicks reports for SDPB.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has resolved a legal challenge to South Dakota's restrictions on initiated and referred measures.

The appeals court heard arguments in December in the case short-titled South Dakota Voice v. Kristi Noem.

The Eighth Circuit has found that the 2019 law at the center of the appeal has been replaced and is moot.

But the constitutionality of petition deadlines is headed back to South Dakota federal court for resolution.

Victoria Wicks has this report for SDPB.

In January 2019, Pennington County deputies responded to a report of a disturbance inside a Rapid Valley home.

After they entered to determine if anyone needed help, one deputy found drug vials lying on a couch. That find led to drug charges against the renter.

During prosecution, the trial judge suppressed that evidence.

The U.S. Attorney's office appealed the suppression, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Friday, Dec. 18.

Victoria Wicks reports on those legal arguments for SDPB.

Two Chicago heroin dealers have appealed their convictions for causing overdoses, one of them fatal, in Sioux Falls.

Judges from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the combined cases on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Defendants say the affected drug users had an assortment of substances in their systems.

But the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota says the overdoses would not have happened if not for the heroin.

Victoria Wicks has more on this case for SDPB.

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Ballot Initiative Law Declared Illegal; State Appeals

Dec 13, 2020

A legal challenge to a dead law goes before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

In 2019, the South Dakota legislature put restrictions on proponents of ballot initiatives.

In January 2020, a federal judge found the law to be unconstitutional.

The 2020 legislature replaced it with a new law, but the state still appealed the judge's ruling on the old one.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB. Listen here:

In May 2018 a postal worker at St. Francis saw a baggie of white powder that had fallen out of a broken package.

Rosebud Sioux Tribal Police field-tested the contents and soon after arrested the intended recipient.

In preparation for trial, the defendant asked the judge to suppress the evidence, claiming the government conducted an illegal search.

The issue went before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week. Victoria Wicks explores this case further for SDPB.

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A federal inmate is appealing his conviction for selling a drug that almost caused a user's death.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments last week.

Michael Cooper says the U.S. Attorney should not have been allowed to tell the jury about a prior drug sale leading to an overdose. And he says the government failed to prove its case.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB.

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A bank robber serving federal time for threatening Yankton bank employees with a fake bomb is appealing his sentence.

David Giese asked a South Dakota federal district court for an evidentiary hearing in a bid for a lighter sentence.

When that failed, he took the issue to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Appellate judges heard arguments on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB.

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In May 2017, Jamie Shoulders of Kyle shot Chris Janis, who was sitting in a minivan conducting a drug deal.

Shoulders later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The motive for the murder still remains baffling.

Shoulders was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. He appeals the length of his sentence to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments on Friday, Oct. 23.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB. Listen here.

In 2001, Oakley Engesser was convicted of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular battery resulting from a car crash near Sturgis.

Engesser spent 12 years in prison, all the while maintaining he had not been driving.

After his conviction was overturned, Engesser sued investigators and prosecutors for ignoring witnesses and mishandling physical evidence, but those efforts failed.

Now he has turned to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments on Thursday, Oct. 22.

In 2016, public and private officials gathered on a 10-acre tract of land near Brookings to break ground for an indoor aquaponics farm.

Investors were told the $11 million enterprise would raise fish and grow hydroponic vegetables and fruit.

But it was never built.

A year and a half later, the two developers were indicted for fraud.

Both were convicted, and one of them is now appealing. Oral arguments were held telephonically on Wednesday, Oct. 21, before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says convicted murderer Charles Rhines won't get a second chance with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhines' case was heard by three judges who issued an opinion in August that he is not entitled to have his conviction overturned. Rhines then asked that all active judges in the Eighth Circuit reconsider that outcome.

Jackley says the Eighth Circuit has rejected that request, and Rhines can now appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Victoria Wicks file photo

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that South Dakota officials violated the Indian Child Welfare Act. Now the ACLU attorney who represented the plaintiffs says he plans to ask the Eighth Circuit to reconsider, even though the state officials have made the changes to custody hearings that the plaintiffs were seeking.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Victoria Wicks file photo

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul has overturned a Rapid City federal court's finding that South Dakota agencies systematically violated the Indian Child Welfare Act.

In March 2013, tribes and parents brought a class-action suit against the state Department of Social Services, Seventh Circuit Court, and the Pennington County State's Attorney.

Federal Judge Jeffrey Viken found for the plaintiffs in a partial summary judgment, but state officials successfully appealed his decision to the Eighth Circuit.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has more of this story.

SD Department of Corrections

Convicted murderer Charles Rhines has lost another attempt to have his death penalty overturned, this time at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now his options are dwindling, but they have not yet run out. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says the Eighth Circuit's ruling can be challenged in a couple of ways.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

SD Department of Corrections

Annie Mae Aquash was found dead on the Pine Ridge Reservation in February 1976, killed by a bullet to the back of her head, but no one was charged with the crime for almost 30 years. Then two defendants were tried and convicted.

One of them, John Graham, has lost another appeal.

Graham was extradited from Canada in 2007 after he was implicated by his codefendant.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is now deliberating the federal lawsuit alleging unlawful handling of emergency hearings in Pennington County. Three appellate judges heard oral arguments in St. Paul on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Two tribes, along with Native parents, filed suit almost five years ago against the Seventh Circuit Court, the Pennington County State's Attorney, and the state Department of Social Services. They say officials in these agencies violate the Indian Child Welfare Act, as well as due process protections under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Five years ago tribes and parents sued state and county officials in Pennington County for violating the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from those officials' lawyers, who say their clients should not have been sued because they didn't create the questioned policies. The officials are appealing a federal judge's decision that forced changes in the way emergency hearings are held in child custody cases. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

SD Department of Corrections

An inmate on death row for nearly 25 years has argued to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that his lawyers did not adequately represent him.

Charles Russell Rhines says his lawyers should have given the jury more information about his mental health issues at his trial in 1993. He says if they had, the jury might not have sentenced him to die.