PIERRE, S.D. – The severely mentally ill would not be executed for committing a capital crime in South Dakota if a bill is passed by the state legislature this year and becomes law.
South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is behind the bill. The advocacy group's director, Dennis Davis, says the bill would allow a judge to order life in prison rather than execution if a person convicted of a capital crime has an intellectual disability or is found to be severely mentally ill when the crime occurred.
Davis maintains there are more effective ways to punish people who commit horrific crimes.
"When we execute someone, on their death certificate, the manner of death is checked off as homicide,” he points out. “The doctor will check it as homicide. It is state-sponsored homicide, and is that the kind of people that we are? And that's always the question that I ask. I think we're better than that."
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, three males have been executed in South Dakota.