SD Supreme Court

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A South Dakota death row inmate’s conviction and sentence stand. A ruling from the United States Supreme Court Monday denies Rodney Berget’s request to overturn the state court’s decision. This puts an end to any direct appeals to his murder conviction and capital sentence.

Correctional Officer Ron Johnson died a violent death in May of 2011 when two inmates at the South Dakota State Penitentiary tried to escape from prison. Eric Robert and Rodney Berget were caught, tried, and convicted in the killing.

The South Dakota Supreme Court is in session this week, and on Wednesday justices heard an appeal from a man convicted of first-degree manslaughter for shooting a gun while he was being assaulted. Charles Birdshead was sentenced to 45 years in prison. His attorney says instructions to the jury were flawed and evidence of his prior crimes was improperly admitted.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s ban on driving under the influence of alcohol did not take a two-year hiatus. Last month a Lake Andes lawyer argued that the state DUI-alcohol law could not be enforced for a two-year period. Timothy Whalen contended that the 2012 legislature created an error and didn’t fix it until 2014. But Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Hallem said clearly the legislature did not intend to legalize drunk driving, and a unanimous court agreed.


A man found guilty of aggravated assault against law enforcement wants the state’s highest court to throw out his conviction. This week the South Dakota Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments at the University of Sioux Falls. Attorneys in one of Monday’s cases disagree about the state’s definition of "serious bodily injury."

Last December a Lincoln County judge found Samuel Miland guilty of possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault against law enforcement. For that last conviction, Miland received 40 years in the state penitentiary.

Now that the state Supreme Court has determined South Dakota’s implied consent law to be unconstitutional, the criminal justice system and the state legislature have to regroup. The Attorney General says new processes could cost money, and the legislature might have to find ways to bolster public safety. But the attorney who prevailed in the case tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that protection of constitutional rights justifies the “new normal.”

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law officers must obtain warrants before drawing blood in routine DUI arrests. Now the South Dakota Supreme Court is dealing with that ruling. In a recent opinion, the state’s high court says the decision in Missouri versus McNeely does not apply retroactively.


For the second time, a convicted killer’s death sentence is in front of South Dakota’s Supreme Court. Rodney Berget won an element of his first appeal to the high court, but his attorney returns with arguments that the process and procedures of his sentencing aren’t fair.

South Dakota’s highest court says a confession can be used against a woman at trial. The decision stems from the killing of a 16-year-old Mitchell girl in November of 2009. A man pleaded guilty to the murder; now his former girlfriend’s case is moving to trial.

More than five years ago, 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara’s body was found in the trunk of a car set on fire in rural Hanson County. She suffered stab wounds, and an autopsy says she was burned alive.

  Arguments in front of South Dakota’s Supreme Court could impact the plans for a Walmart on the south side of Sioux Falls. Voters approved rezoning for the project earlier this month in a city election. But state justices are weighing whether Sioux Falls annexed the land properly. 

The attorney for the Save Our Neighborhood group in Sioux Falls begins his oral arguments in front of the state Supreme Court with a thinly-veiled reference to the Walmart issue.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Briley Piper’s guilty plea in the killing of Chester Allan Poage stands. The South Dakota Supreme Court says Piper can’t take back his admission that he killed a man more than a decade ago. The decision was released Thursday.

State officials warn of another phone scam targeting South Dakotans. This time it involves the court system. The Unified Judicial System and the Attorney General’s office say criminals are trying to get personal information and banking details from people by lying about legal consequences.

A South Dakota death row inmate wants a jury to hear his case, and it’s up to the South Dakota Supreme Court to decide if he gets a new trial. The high court entertains arguments that Briley Piper didn’t fully understand how waiving his right to a jury trial impacted his fate.