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Attorneys for death row inmate argue for a reduced sentence

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.  – Defendants and prosecuting attorneys for South Dakota’s only inmate on death row made their case in front of a federal judge in Sioux Falls on Friday.

Briley Piper may be a name familiar to many South Dakotans. He was found to be one of three people guilty of the death of Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish in 2000.

Piper did not appear in court. However, attorneys argued on his behalf that the initial court-appointed attorney did not do his due diligence in having assessments conducted for Piper, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

The defendants argued that knowing more about Piper’s cognitive and neurological situation could have affected the trial outcome.

Those arguing for the state point to references from assessments that were completed on Piper, finding ADHD, but also pointed to a conduct disorder and the use of drugs.

“It is the state’s position that there was due process and state proceedings. That the evidence and those proceedings showed that Mr. Piper had a college degree. He had a high IQ, and that the fetal alcohol syndrome didn’t exist or simply wasn’t a factor,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Paul Swedlund, one of those arguing for the state, said maybe the original assessments didn’t come into play for the murder and “maybe he was a sociopath.”

The defense claimed the alleged negligence of the original council should not be Piper’s fault, and the state no longer has a mechanism for a petitioner to litigate if not represented fairly.

Jackley notes that the state has a dual responsibility.

“It’s a situation where as Attorney General we have a responsibility to ensure that Mr. Piper receives due process and we also have responsibility to ensure that Allan Poage, his family including his mom Dottie receive justice,” said Jackley.

The other two found guilty of participating in the murder include Elijah Paige, who was executed in 2007, and Darrell Hoadley, who is serving a life sentence.

The victim’s mother, Dottie Poage, was also in court Friday. At the conclusion, the attorneys for Piper asked the state attorneys if they could introduce themselves to her. The response was immediate and firm; “no.”

“It was respectful of the lawyers trying to make an effort, but I hope that they also appreciate the state’s position that we want to make sure that the family, and that the victim’s family is given respect and given time to process those types of opportunities,” said Jackley.

The judge will issue a written opinion regarding the arguments. Judge Lange remarked, “The case has languished. The court’s intention is to not delay” and would issue his written opinion “fairly shortly after briefing.”

Both parties have 21 days to submit their written briefs.

Piper’s attorneys did not respond to a request for an interview.

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