"Stop Killing" sign on the grass in front of the state penitentiary.
John Nguyen

Death row inmate Charles Russell Rhines was executed by lethal injection at 7:39 Monday night.  There was a six hour delay waiting for the US Supreme Court to consider three appeals.   Once the appeals were denied it took 37 minutes from Rhines leaving his holding cell to being pronounced dead.  


Chris Laughery

In The Moment ... October 28, 2019 Show 688 Hour 2

Dennis Davis is a spokesman for South Dakotans for an Alternative to the Death Penalty. Davis visits with SDPB's Cara Hetland to explain his groups position with respect to the planned execution of Charles Rhines during the first week of November.


In The Moment ... October 28, 2019 Show 688 Hour 2

The Cornell Death Penalty Project is dedicated to neutral examinations of how the death penalty operates. Every year, Project staff produce a number of articles related to the death penalty. Areas of particular interest to the Project include race and the death penalty, mental impairment and the death penalty, and the law of federal habeas corpus.

Victoria Wicks Leads Up To Rhines Execution

Oct 28, 2019

In The Moment ... October 28, 2019 Show 688 Hour 2

South Dakota death row inmate Charles Rhines has exhausted his direct appeals in court and is scheduled to die sometime in the first week of November. But his attorneys are still working on a couple of potential legal roadblocks. Rhines goes to court Tuesday in Sioux Falls to challenge drug protocols. And an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel says he still can plead for leniency from Governor Kristi Noem.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks visits with In The Moment guest host Cara Hetland.


In The Moment ... November 29, 2018 Show 469 Hour 2

John Biewen grew up in Mankato, Minnesota. He says nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there.

In 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. History. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged after battles with white settlers.

Biewen is the Director of Audio at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The story is featured the weekend on This American Life which airs Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Central and Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Central.

Adria Botella / SDPB

South Dakota inmate Rodney Berget was executed Monday, October 29, 2018, for the murder of prison guard Ronald "RJ" Johnson in April of 2011.  Berget, 56, admitted to his part in the murder and asked a judge in 2016 to withdraw his appeals of his death sentence.  

The execution was originally scheduled to be carried out at 1:30 p.m. CDT, but was delayed for hours while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a last-minute legal manuver by mitigation specialist, Juliet Yackel, who claimed Berget was "intellectually disabled". Berget was pronounced deat at 7:37 p.m. CDT. 

Berget Executed After SCOTUS Denies Stay

Oct 29, 2018
Jackie Hendry

After a nearly six-hour delay, Rodney Berget was executed Monday for his role in the 2011 murder of correction officer Ron “RJ” Johnson at the state penitentiary. A motion to stay the execution reached the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the preceding litigation and the South Dakota Supreme Court’s decision.  

As the scheduled execution time neared, about 40 anti-death penalty demonstrators stood in silent prayer for Rodney Berget and others impacted by the case.

Berget Execution Set For Monday

Oct 26, 2018

The state is setting the time and date of execution for Rodney Berget, an inmate accused of killing a South Dakota prison guard.

Berget’s execution is set for Monday, October 29, at 1:30 P-M central time.

Speaking with KELO’s Bob Mercer, Governor Dennis Daugaard says the courts made the right decision by sentencing him to death.

Attempt To End Death Penalty In SD Fails

Feb 10, 2016
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A bill to end the death penalty in South Dakota failed in the state legislature. State Senator Art Rusch, who spent many years as a prosecutor and circuit judge, brought Senate Bill 94 to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday. 

Testimony on both sides was often emotional. Lynnette Johnson of Sioux Falls lost her husband on his 63rd birthday in 2011.  Ronald “RJ” Johnson was attacked and killed during an escape attempt by two men serving life prison terms.  Johnson’s widow is opposed to repealing executions in the state.

Convicted child killer Donald Moeller is set to die by lethal injection at 10:00 tonight. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the latest request for a stay of execution. Moeller was convicted for the 1990 murder of 9-year-old Becky O’Connell. For twenty-two years Moeller denied that he killed O’Connell and lodged nearly every appeal in court battles. Moeller gave up his last appeal several weeks ago when he admitted his guilt and said that he accepts lethal injection as justice.

Execution of Eric Robert

Oct 16, 2012

SDPB News Director was part of the media pool that covered the execution of Eric Robert on Monday night.  Robert had pleaded guilty in the April 12, 2011, slaying of prison guard Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt.  Robert asked to be put to death, saying he would kill again.  He was put to death by lethal injection at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.  He was pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m.

Eric Robert Execution

Oct 15, 2012

SDPB News Director Cara Hetland is part of the media pool that is covering tonight's execution of Eric Robert.  Robert, 50, pleaded guilty to the April 12, 2011, slaying of a prison guard during a failed escape attempt and asked to be put to death, saying he would kill again.  He is scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight at 10 p.m. at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.  Hetland visits with Dakota Midday host Karl Gehrke.

Execution Tonight

Oct 15, 2012

 Tonight (October 15, 2012) at 10:00 PM Eric Robert is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.  During the execution the media will await witness statements in the Ronald J. Johnson training center.   The place named for the victim of Robert’s Crime.    Attorney General Marty Jackley has already spoken this morning to the family of Robert “RJ” Johnson.  Johnson was murdered during a failed escape attempt last April of 2011.

South Dakota Executions

Oct 11, 2012

Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., discusses the scheduled executions of Eric Robert and Donald Moeller this month.  He also touches on the differences between lethal injection by a single drug process and a three-drug protocol along with the cruel and unusual punishment arguments in South Dakota.