Summary of Offense:
Donald Moeller was originally convicted in 1992 of the brutal 1990 rape and murder of nine-year-old Becky O'Connell, who was abducted in Sioux Falls and raped and murdered in Lincoln County. After this first conviction, which included a sentence of death, his conviction was reversed by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 1996, and Moeller was re-tried, re-convicted and re-sentenced to death in 1997 by a Pennington County jury. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed that conviction.
Moeller is now challenging his conviction in State habeas corpus proceedings. The habeas corpus hearing was held on February 27 through March 1, 2002, in Sioux Falls. After the hearing, the parties briefed the matter, and the habeas trial court denied all relief, thus upholding Moeller's conviction. The habeas trial court also denied a certificate of probable cause on all except one issue, and Moeller requested a certificate of probable cause from the South Dakota Supreme Court. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed this denial of Habeas corpus relief on March 22, 2004.
Thereafter, Moeller filed a petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Southern Division. There is a petition on file, and the State has responded. It is anticipated that the Court will hold either an oral argument or other hearing before making a ruling. There is no deadline for the Court to rule on this petition. After that Court rules, further appeals within the federal system can be pursued.