South Dakota

General Information

Death Penalty: Yes
Date of Abolition: 1915
Date of Reinstatement (following Furman v. Georgia): January 1, 1979
Location of Death Row/Executions: South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls

Capital: Pierre
Population: 814,180
Governor: Kristi Noem
Legislative Information: Senate and House of Representatives


Death Sentences 1994-2012

DPIC's State Database for information on executions, death row population and other statistics in South Dakota
History of the Death Penalty

South Dakota Badlands. Photo by Travis Schultze.

History of the Death Penalty

All executions were carried out by hanging until 1947, when George Sitts was executed by electrocution. Executions since 1976 have used lethal injection. 

Famous Capital Cases

The first person executed by the government in the land that is now South Dakota was Jack McCall, the man convicted of killing Wild Bill Hickok. The execution happened in 1877.

The second person executed in the land that is now South Dakota was Thomas Egan, who was convicted of killing his wife. He was "hanged" three times on the 13th of July 1882; the rope broke on the first attempt, and on the second attempt the rope did not break his neck. Only on the third attempt did the execution go as planned. Years later, his stepdaughter admitted to committing the crime when she was on her death bed.

In 2001, Elijah Page and Briley Piper pleaded guilty to the torture-murder of Chester Allan Poage.  They were both sentenced to death by a judge.  Darrell Hoadley chose to plead innocent to the murder and was convicted by a jury.  Though he was found to have the same aggravating factors against him, a split sentencing jury led to him receiving life in prison.  Page chose to end his appeals and was executed in 2007.  Piper challenged his death sentence and had his death sentence vacated.  He is scheduled to be re-sentenced by a jury in July of 2011.

Milestones in abolition/reinstatement

Fourteen people were executed in what is now South Dakota before the death penalty was abolished in the state in 1915.

The death penalty was reinstated, with execution by electric chair as the only method, in 1939.  One person, George Sitts in 1947, was executed before the death penalty was found to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1972.

Other interesting facts
In 1984, South Dakota law was changed to provide for execution by lethal injection.


South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Department of Corrections

Victims' services




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Many thanks to South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty for contributing to this page.