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Supreme Court upholds Briley Piper death sentence

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The South Dakota Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the conviction of the state’s last death-row inmate.

Briley Piper pleaded guilty to murder and other felonies in January 2001. He and two friends killed 19-year-old Chester Poage in a gulch near Spearfish in March 2000.

Piper admitted his guilt on advice of his attorneys, believing that taking responsibility would lessen his chances of being sentenced to death. That gambit failed.

Through appeals, Piper was granted a new sentencing hearing. After a week of testimony in July 2011, a Rapid City jury unanimously confirmed that he should die for his crimes.

In the opinion made public on Thursday, Dec. 12, the state Supreme Court found that Piper had understood the consequences of pleading guilty in 2001 and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial. An execution date has not yet been set.

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