State v. Page, No. 21864.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtGilbertson
Citation2006 SD 2,709 N.W.2d 739
Decision Date04 January 2006
Docket NumberNo. 21864.
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Elijah PAGE, Defendant and Appellant.

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709 N.W.2d 739
2006 SD 2
STATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
Elijah PAGE, Defendant and Appellant.
No. 21864.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Argued March 24, 2004.
Decided January 4, 2006.

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 Introduction ........................................................................... ¶ 1
                 Facts and Procedure ............................................................ ¶ 2 - ¶ 11
                 Analysis and Decision
                 1. Recusal of circuit judge ................................................. ¶ 12 - ¶ 18
                 2. Sufficiency of statute limiting class of persons eligible for death penalty ¶ 19 - ¶ 22
                 3. Use of vague and overbroad aggravating factor ............................. ¶ 23 - ¶ 28
                 4. Sufficiency of evidence on aggravating factors ............................ ¶ 29 - ¶ 45
                 5. Denial of individualized sentencing hearing ............................... ¶ 46 - ¶ 52
                 6. Selective & unconstitutional application of sentencing procedure .......... ¶ 53 - ¶ 54
                 7. Proportionality of death sentence to similar cases ........................ ¶ 55 - ¶ 65
                 8. Failure of indictment to allege any aggravating circumstances ............. ¶ 66 - ¶ 67
                 9. Capital sentencing scheme violates right to jury trial .................... ¶ 68 - ¶ 91
                 10. Proportionality of sentence to co-defendant Hoadley's sentence ............ ¶ 92 - ¶ 122
                 Dissenting Opinion, Sabers, J. .............................................................. ¶ 123
                 1. Capital sentencing scheme violates right to jury trial .................... ¶ 124 - ¶ 137
                 2. Proportionality of sentence to co-defendant Hoadley's sentence ............ ¶ 138 - ¶ 144
                

Lawrence E. Long, Attorney General, Gary Campbell, Assistant Attorney General, Craig M. Eichstadt, Deputy Attorney General, Sherri Sundem Wald, Grant Gormley, Assistant Attorneys General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

John R. Murphy, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Michael J. Butler, Butler Law Office, P.C., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.


[¶ 1.] On March 12-13, 2000, Elijah Page (Page) along with two other individuals, kidnapped and murdered Chester Allan Poage (Poage) in Spearfish, South Dakota. Page eventually pleaded guilty to first degree murder, kidnapping, robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, and grand theft. After Page waived his right to a jury trial, and sentencing by jury, a sentencing hearing was held before the circuit court. The circuit court sentenced Page to death by lethal injection on the murder charge. Page now appeals and raises several issues for our review. We affirm on all issues.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

[¶ 2.] On March 12, 2000, Page met up with Briley Piper (Piper), Darrell Hoadley (Hoadley), and Poage at Poage's house to play video games. Poage's mother and sister, who also lived at the house, were on vacation in Florida at this time. Eventually, Piper, Page, and Hoadley convinced Poage to leave the house, and the four left in Poage's Chevrolet Blazer, traveling to the house where Piper, Page, and Hoadley had been staying.

[¶ 3.] Shortly after arriving at their destination, Page exposed a .22 caliber pistol, ordered Poage to the floor, and told the victim, "We are jacking you of all your stuff."1 Once Poage was on the floor, Piper knocked him unconscious by kicking

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him in the head. While Poage was unconscious, he was tied up with a cord and sat upright in a chair. When the victim regained consciousness, he started to cry and pleaded with the group to let him go. In response, the group forced Poage to drink a concoction of crushed pills, beer, and hydrochloric acid. Page asked Poage for the personal identification number for his ATM card at this time, and the victim complied. Page and Piper then openly discussed their plan to kill Poage, including slitting his throat, but decided against this particular plan because it would get too much blood in the house. This discussion concerning the "best" way to kill Poage was carried on directly in front of the victim.2

[¶ 4.] After forcing Poage into his own vehicle, the group drove approximately seven miles to a remote, wooded area in the Black Hills known as Higgins Gulch. Once at Higgins Gulch, Poage was forced out of the vehicle into a foot of snow. Page and Piper stripped Poage naked except for his undershirt, shoes, and socks. The temperature that night was only about twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Piper, Page, and Hoadley then took Poage's wallet.

[¶ 5.] Next, the men forced Poage to walk downhill toward a small creek. On the way to the creek, the three ordered Poage to lie down in the deep snow. At that point, Piper, Page, and Hoadley kicked snow all over the victim's exposed body. When Poage attempted to escape to save his life, Page ran him down, recaptured him, and pushed him into the icy creek. The group then began beating Poage, with Page repeatedly kicking the victim in the head. Poage cried out in pain throughout the beating, but his screams only caused more kicks. Page later admitted to kicking Poage in the head so often with his boots that it "made his own foot sore."

[¶ 6.] Sometime after beating Poage in the river, the group decided it was time to finally kill the victim. Page was the first to stab Poage. As he lay in the freezing water, Page took Poage's head in his arms. When Poage asked him, "What are you doing?" Page responded, "Just sit there." Page then plunged his knife all the way into the victim's neck. Piper proceeded to stab Poage in the head. During this time, Piper laughed and made jokes about the pain Poage was experiencing, to which Page "chuckled."

[¶ 7.] Bleeding badly from his wounds, Poage asked the three to be allowed back into his vehicle to warm himself. Testimony indicated that Poage said he preferred to bleed to death in the warmth rather than in the cold. Piper told Poage he could warm up in the vehicle if he first washed the blood off himself. Poage proceeded to rinse himself off in the icy water, but as he crawled uphill toward the vehicle, Page told him they were lying and he would not be allowed into the vehicle. Page kicked the victim in the face once again. Poage was then dragged back into the creek. Approximately four hours after the ordeal began, and about three hours after the beatings started in the gulch, Page stated Hoadley and he finally ended Poage's life by dropping several heavy rocks on his head.

[¶ 8.] Piper, Page, and Hoadley drove away from the secluded area in Poage's

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vehicle. The group returned to the victim's house and stole several items. For his share of the victim's property, Page claimed a stereo system, clothes, and Poage's vehicle. The group then traveled to Hannibal, Missouri, to visit Piper's sister. Piper's sister refused to let them stay, however, so the three headed back to South Dakota, pawning Poage's property along the way.3 Upon returning to South Dakota, Piper, Page, and Hoadley each went his own way.

[¶ 9.] On April 22, 2000, almost a month later, a woman discovered a partially submerged body in Higgins Gulch. A forensic pathologist later identified the remains as Poage. Showing signs of head injuries and stab wounds, the mostly naked body was clad only in an undershirt, shoes, and socks. Following an autopsy, the forensic pathologist ultimately determined Poage had died from "stab wounds and the blunt force injury to the head."

[¶ 10.] On April 25, 2000, law enforcement authorities conducted an interview with Hoadley wherein he gave a statement detailing his involvement in the murder of Poage. Based on this interview, warrants were issued for both Piper and Page. Three days later, authorities located and arrested Page in Texas. The next day, Page voluntarily described to law enforcement the details surrounding Poage's murder. Page was then extradited from Texas and jailed in Lawrence County, South Dakota. Page later pleaded guilty to and was convicted of first degree felony murder, kidnapping, first degree robbery, first degree burglary, and grand theft. The State did not offer a plea agreement to Page. Page waived his rights to both a jury trial and sentencing by jury and instead requested sentencing by the circuit court. At the conclusion of a five-day sentencing hearing, the circuit court sentenced Page to death by lethal injection, finding that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt the following aggravating factors: (1) the defendant committed the offense for the benefit of the defendant or another for the purpose of receiving money or any other item of monetary value; (2) the offense was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, and an aggravated battery to the victim; (3) the offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing lawful arrest, or custody in a place of lawful confinement, of the defendant or another.4

[¶ 11.] On March 14, 2001, Page appealed his sentence to this Court. In light of a jury's subsequent imposition of life without the possibility of parole on co-defendant Hoadley, we remanded the case to the circuit court for a proportionality review. After conducting an intra-case proportionality review, the circuit court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law affirming Page's death sentence. Page now appeals and raises the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the circuit judge should have recused himself from sentencing Page after it imposed the death penalty on co-defendant Piper.

2. Whether SDCL 23A-27A-1 fails to sufficiently limit the class of persons who may be deemed eligible for the death penalty.

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3. Whether the circuit court utilized a...

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16 practice notes
  • State v. Berget, No. 26764.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • August 13, 2014
    ...remand, we presume the circuit courts “know the law and [will] apply it in making [their] decisions.” State v. Page, 2006 S.D. 2, ¶ 27, 709 N.W.2d 739, 754 (quoting Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 653, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 3057, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990) ). “We have recognized [ ] that South Dakot......
  • State v. Piper, No. 21813.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 4, 2006
    ...at 464 (summarizing Rhines, Anderson I,10 and Anderson II). We take further judicial notice of co-defendant Page's case. State v. Page, 2006 SD 2, 709 N.W.2d [¶ 39.] We conclude Piper's sentence of death was not disproportionate to other relevant class cases when considering the nature and ......
  • Hyatt v. Weber, No. CIV 05-3029.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • December 21, 2006
    ...1304, 1317 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1047, 119 S.Ct. 1350, 143 L.Ed.2d 512 (1999); Hatch, 58 F.3d at 1458; State v. Page, 2006 SD 2, ¶¶ 12-18, 709 N.W.2d 739, In a separate ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Hyatt argues that his counsel acted unreasonably when she fail......
  • State v. Berget, No. 26318.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 12, 2013
    ...Id. Page, on the other hand, presented mitigating evidence regarding his terrible childhood. See State v. Page, 2006 S.D. 2, ¶ 51, 709 N.W.2d 739, 759. Regarding this evidence, the sentencing court noted: “Your early years must have been a living hell. Most people treat their pets better th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • State v. Berget, No. 26764.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • August 13, 2014
    ...remand, we presume the circuit courts “know the law and [will] apply it in making [their] decisions.” State v. Page, 2006 S.D. 2, ¶ 27, 709 N.W.2d 739, 754 (quoting Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 653, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 3057, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990) ). “We have recognized [ ] that South Dakot......
  • State v. Piper, No. 21813.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 4, 2006
    ...at 464 (summarizing Rhines, Anderson I,10 and Anderson II). We take further judicial notice of co-defendant Page's case. State v. Page, 2006 SD 2, 709 N.W.2d [¶ 39.] We conclude Piper's sentence of death was not disproportionate to other relevant class cases when considering the nature and ......
  • Hyatt v. Weber, No. CIV 05-3029.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • December 21, 2006
    ...1304, 1317 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1047, 119 S.Ct. 1350, 143 L.Ed.2d 512 (1999); Hatch, 58 F.3d at 1458; State v. Page, 2006 SD 2, ¶¶ 12-18, 709 N.W.2d 739, In a separate ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Hyatt argues that his counsel acted unreasonably when she fail......
  • State v. Berget, No. 26318.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 12, 2013
    ...Id. Page, on the other hand, presented mitigating evidence regarding his terrible childhood. See State v. Page, 2006 S.D. 2, ¶ 51, 709 N.W.2d 739, 759. Regarding this evidence, the sentencing court noted: “Your early years must have been a living hell. Most people treat their pets better th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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