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Briley Piper - South Dakota Death Row
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    Briley Piper - South Dakota Death Row


    Chester Allan Poage




    Summary of Offense:

    On March 13, 2000, Briley Piper and two other individuals kidnapped Chester Allan Poage and beat him to death. Afterwards, they returned to Poage's home and stole personal property and the victim's 1997 Blazer, which was used to leave the state. Prior to trial, Piper pleaded guilty to felony murder, kidnapping, robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, and grand theft. Piper further waived his right to a jury trial on sentencing and the sentencing hearing was held in front of the trial court. After this hearing, the trial court sentenced Piper to death. He has appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

    The two other individuals, Darrell Hoadley and Elijah Page were arrested in connection with the Poage murder. Page, along with Piper pleaded guilty and left their sentencing up to District Judge Warren Johnson in a bench penalty phase proceeding. Both waived their right to have a jury empaneled for the penalty phase proceeding. Johnson found Page and Piper death penalty eligible upon finding that statutory aggravating circumstances were present, and accordingly sentenced them to death.

    Page would later drop all of his remaining appeals and request to be executed. Elijah Page became the first South Dakota inmate to be put to death by the state in 60 years when he was executed by lethal injection on the evening of July 12, 2007.

    Hoadley, meanwhile, elected to go to trial and while the jury in that case found him guilty; he was spared a death sentence when the jury instead recommended a life sentence. Hoadley is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole in the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

    On April 3, 2002, the South Dakota Supreme Court remanded the Piper case to the trial court for further proceedings, including an evidentiary hearing, on Piper’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and disproportionality of his death sentence. The trial court had had no opportunity to consider those issues because the issues arose after the appeal had begun. In the remand order, the Court did not decide the merits of any issues on appeal. The matter was decided on remand by the Circuit Court, and it will now return to the South Dakota Supreme Court for further briefing and decision by that Court. The Supreme Court decided to start the appeal process over, and the Court thereafter received written briefs and heard oral argument in March, 2004. The Supreme Court issued its decision affirming the death sentence and the conviction on January 4, 2006. The matter thereafter was remanded to the Circuit court. To this point, no new execution date has been set. There are several rounds of habeas court in State and federal courts that Piper may pursue, and so no estimate of the time when the sentence may be carried out is possible at this time.

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    Confessed murderer Briley Piper's plea stays on the books

    STURGIS -- Death-row inmate Briley Piper cannot withdraw his guilty plea and overturn his conviction in the March 2000 murder of Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish, according to 4th Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich.

    Eckrich filed his final word on the matter Wednesday, Nov. 17, in Sturgis where Piper's court records are kept.

    Piper, 29, and Elijah Page pleaded guilty to murder in 2001, waived their right to a jury trial and were sentenced to death by 4th Circuit Judge Warren G. Johnson. Their lawyers later said that they believed the defendants had a better chance of avoiding the death penalty if a judge sentenced them because a jury would be swayed by the brutal nature of the crime.

    A third man, Darrell Hoadley, pleaded not guilty, was convicted by a jury and was sentenced to life in prison. Page waived all appeals and was executed in July 2007.

    Piper's defense team, Michael Stonefield and his co-counsel, Robert Van Norman of Rapid City, wanted to withdraw Piper's guilty plea for various reasons. They said that Piper was not properly advised of his option to have a jury trial; he misunderstood the maximum penalty he could receive; his pleas were not free, voluntary or intelligent, as required by law; and the court did not establish a factual basis on some of the pleas to charges.

    Van Norman intends to appeal Eckrich's denial to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald could schedule a new sentence hearing in the case, but the appeal may delay that from happening. Fitzgerald has prosecuted the case from its beginning.

    In July 2009, the South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously overturned Piper's sentence -- but not his conviction -- ruling his decision to give up his right to have a jury decide his fate was not valid because he received incorrect legal information from the judge, who told him all 12 jurors would have to agree on the sentence. In fact, a life sentence would have been the result if even a single juror refused to impose the death penalty.

    The high court sent the case back to circuit court, ordering a jury trial to determine Piper's punishment.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news...cc4c002e0.html

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    Hearing set for Piper death penalty case

    A court hearing has been set to review the status of the 2001 death sentence of convicted murderer Briley Piper. Piper's death sentence was overturned by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The hearing is set for Jan. 3.

    Piper's attorney Robert Van Norman of Rapid City stated in a letter to Fourth Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich that he intends to appeal the plea ruling to the state Supreme Court.

    Piper, 30, is trying to have his guilty plea thrown out.

    Eckrich ruled that Piper's murder conviction should stand and that he should be re-sentenced for his role in the March 2000 torture and slaying of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage, near Spearfish.

    Piper pleaded guilty to murder and a judge sentenced him to death. The state Supreme Court in July 2009 left the conviction intact but overturned the death sentence. Piper and Elijah Page pleaded guilty to killing Poage, waived their right to a jury trial and were sentenced to death by Circuit Judge Warren G. Johnson. Their lawyers later said they believed the men had a better chance of avoiding the death penalty if a judge sentenced them because a jury would be swayed by the brutal nature of the crime.

    Page waived his appeals and was executed in July 2007.

    A third man, Darrell Hoadley of Lead, was convicted of murder in a jury trial and was sentenced to life in prison.

    Prosecutors said the three abducted Poage, who was an acquaintance, as part of a scheme to rob his mother's home, and killed him so there would be no witnesses. Authorities said Poage was forced into an icy stream, beaten, stabbed, kicked and hit with large rocks over a two-hour period.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news...cc4c002e0.html

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    July date set to decide Briley Pipers fate

    Convicted killer Briley Piper could learn in July if he will remain on death row or spend the rest of his life in prison.

    A jury will determine Pipers fate after a hearing scheduled to begin July 5. The hearing could take up to 20 days, 4th Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich said Monday during a telephone hearing in Sturgis.

    Eckrich said the case has been going on for more than a year, and the hearing to determine Pipers fate should be held sooner rather than later.

    Piper, his attorneys Robert Van Norman and Michael Stonefield, and Lawrence County States Attorney John Fitzgerald all participated by telephone in the hearing.

    Van Norman wanted to delay the hearing for as long as 12 months while he prepared and gathered expert witnesses.

    Eckrich called the time frame unrealistic.

    According to Van Norman, the American Bar Association guidelines for death penalty cases require the use of a mitigation specialist to do a social background evaluation on a defendant and his family.

    Van Norman and Stonefield also said they plan to call a psychologist and psychiatrist to testify.

    Piper, 30, and Elijah Page pleaded guilty to the 2000 killing of Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish. Both men waived their rights to a jury trial and were sentenced to death by 4th Circuit Judge Warren G. Johnson. Page was executed in 2007, after he waived all appeals.

    A third accomplice, Darrell Hoadley, was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of Poages death.

    The trio kidnapped Poage and robbed his mothers house in March 2000. They killed Poage to cover up their crime. His body was found several weeks later in a stream.

    The South Dakota Supreme Court overturned Pipers death sentence in July 2009. The high court said Piper was given incorrect legal information when he entered his plea rather than standing trial.

    In late December, the Supreme Court rejected Van Normans attempts to withdraw Pipers guilty plea, according to Fitzgerald.

    Van Norman said Monday that he plans to request a change of venue for the hearing.

    Eckrich set another hearing for Jan. 28 in Deadwood to consider any additional motions in the case.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news...cc4c03286.html

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    Judge says county must pay for Piper's defense

    After having already spent $486,000 to defend convicted murderer Briley Piper, the Lawrence County Commission voted this week to stop paying for his legal counsel.

    The presiding judge in the case, however, issued an order Thursday that says the county will have to pay the attorney's bill for Piper's resentencing trial, which is scheduled to start July 5 in Rapid City and could last a month.

    Piper, 31, was previously sentenced to death by Judge Warren G. Johnson for helping kill 19-year-old Chester Poage, who was slain in March 2000. The Supreme Court, however, has ordered that a jury needs to resentence Piper, citing the judge's instructions in the case.

    "I am disappointed that you did not see fit to discuss this with me beforehand," Judge Jerome Eckrich said in a written response to the commission's vote. "The county is legally obligated to pay court-appointed counsel bills."

    The judge informed the commission that every voucher sent to the county commission is a court order to pay the bill.

    Commissioner Bob Ewing balked after seeing a May 10 bill for $16,500 from Piper's defense attorneys, Michael Stonefield and Robert Van Norman. His objection won the commission's unanimous support.

    "Death penalty cases are extraordinarily expensive," Van Norman said Thursday.

    According to Van Norman, the latest national study suggests it costs three times as much to put someone to death as it does keep a person in prison for life.

    Lawrence County taxpayers have already carried a significant burden in this case, Ewing said.

    "He (Piper) pled guilty to it. The man was convicted and sentenced," Ewing said.

    The commissioner said he does not object to the appeals process, but the fact that this is a resentencing hearing makes this a different situation.

    "This is kind of an animal of a different color where admitting guilt and already having a trial at the taxpayers of Lawrence County's expense," he said.

    Commission Chairman Daryl Johnson said it was time to make a statement about the costs of Piper's defense but declined to say what the commission's next step will be.

    "We're not sure what it will lead to or what it will accomplish," he said.

    Piper, Elijah Page and Darrell Hoadley kidnapped Poage and robbed his mother's house in 2000. They killed Poage to cover up their crime. His body was found several weeks later in a stream.

    In 2001, Piper and Page pleaded guilty to the torture slaying in the belief their best chance of escaping the death penalty was to admit to the crime and have a judge determine their sentence in hopes of receiving life in prison; both men instead were sentenced to death by the judge who presided over their trial. Page was executed in 2007 after waiving further appeals.

    A jury convicted Hoadley of Poage's murder and gave him a life sentence.

    The South Dakota Supreme Court overturned Piper's death sentence in July 2009. The high court said Piper was given incorrect legal information when he chose to enter a guilty plea rather than stand trial.

    His attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered a new sentencing trial by jury.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news...cc4c03286.html

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    Piper headed to sentencing trial

    RAPID CITY A man convicted of murder nearly 10 years ago is scheduled to appear July 5 before a jury that will decide whether he lives or dies.

    The ongoing case of Briley Piper, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, has been the target of attention since March 2000, when he and cohorts Elijah Page and Darrell Hoadley kidnapped, tortured and killed Chester Allen Poage, of Spearfish.

    The end of the case may finally be in sight now that Piper is heading to a sentencing trial in Rapid City. He already received a death sentence but the appeals process has kept the case alive for years.

    Piper and Page pleaded guilty to multiple charges including first-degree murder almost immediately after their first court appearances. Both were given death sentences by 4th Circuit Court Judge Warren Johnson in 2001.

    Both appealed the sentences because Hoadley, who pleaded not guilty and was convicted by a jury, received life in prison for the same crime. Piper and Page claimed their sentences were disproportionate to Hoadley's.

    The appeals went all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which decided 3-2 in 2006 to let the sentences stand because Piper and Page planned and initiated the murder.

    Page voluntarily ended his appeals and was executed by lethal injection in July 2007.

    Piper, however, continued his efforts to have the sentence overturned. He again appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court on the allegation that he was not clearly told by Johnson that if he were sentenced by a jury, anything less than a unanimous call for the death sentence would result in a sentence of life in prison.

    The court ruled unanimously in Piper's favor in 2009. Citing court transcripts, the justices agreed that, when Piper entered his guilty plea, he was doing so under counsels' advice that by entering his guilty plea, he was not entitled to a jury on the sentencing phase. The judge's explanation did not clearly dispel that misunderstanding.

    Nor did the judge's explanation point out that if Piper chose to let the jury decide whether to impose the death penalty, one juror could spare him from death, the state supreme court decision stated.

    Considering the serious nature of the death penalty, the justices said the case called for higher scrutiny than usual. Thus, the court vacated the death sentence and remanded the case back to the circuit court so Piper could receive sentencing by jury, if he so chose.

    With a fresh set of lawyers, Piper then attempted to have his guilty pleas revoked in circuit court. According to supreme court documents, Piper argued that prior counsel had poorly advised him to enter a plea of guilty because it would make him seem more remorseful for his crimes and possibly lessen his sentence.

    Piper's new lawyers, Robert Van Norman and Michael Stonefield, argued that his pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered.

    Fourth Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich, who stepped in for Johnson after the death sentence was overturned, ruled in November 2010 that Piper's guilty pleas and convictions would remain in place.

    Piper therefore remains a convicted murderer, which means the upcoming jury trial will only determine his sentence, not his guilt. The jury may reaffirm the death sentence, but the vote must be unanimous; if even one juror dissents, Piper will receive life in prison.

    Piper's lengthy appeals process has caused problems outside the courtroom. For the past decade, bills for lawyers' fees have been piled on Lawrence County, which is required by law to pay for Piper's indigence so he can receive a fair trial.

    The bills have reached nearly $500,000 to date, a fact that recently drove the Lawrence County Commission to stop paying them. The commission claimed that Piper already received a fair trial and the county's citizens should not have to pay for another one. If further representation is necessary, the commission said, the county-funded public defender is perfectly capable of handling the case.

    Eckrich subsequently sent out warrants for collection on the bills and the commission has resumed payment, though it is requesting the state legislature review the law so future communities don't end up in the same situation.

    Piper's sentencing trial begins at 8:12 a.m., July 5 at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City

    http://www.bhpioneer.com/local_news/...cc4c03286.html

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    Jury selection begins today for Briley Piper’s sentencing

    The first of about 200 Pennington County residents who could be called during jury selection for the Briley Piper sentencing trial will be questioned today.

    The men and women finally selected will determine the 30-year-old Piper’s fate – death or life in prison.

    Piper’s sentencing trial was a first test for the news media of the Unified Judicial System’s new rule giving courts the option of permitting photographers, video cameras and audio recording equipment in the courtroom.

    A media request to make a visual record of a court proceeding requires the unanimous approval of the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys. A judge’s permission is all that is needed for audio recordings of courtroom events.

    However, Mike Picoitta, 4th Circuit Court administrator, said the media request for both visual and audio access to the trial was denied.

    Piper, 30, pleaded guilty to the killing of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish in 2000. He elected to accept 4th Circuit Judge Warren G. Johnson’s sentence and waived his right to have a jury decide his fate.

    After Johnson imposed the death penalty, Piper appealed his sentence to the Supreme Court and was granted a sentencing trial. The high court determined that Piper was given the wrong legal information when he decided to have Johnson determine his sentence.

    Piper’s attorneys requested a change of venue for the sentencing trial and sought to move the case to eastern South Dakota.

    Fourth Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich instead moved the trial to Pennington County.

    Piper’s trial will require the joint efforts of court officials from three counties.

    “It’s a very unique case,” Picoitta said. “A little confusing, Lawrence County is handling the trial, but everyone is working together to try and do a good job with this.”

    Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald is prosecuting the case.

    Pennington County will supply the venue and provided the list of potential jurors.

    Because Eckrich is assigned to Meade County, Meade County clerk of courts Lane Keil and her staff are in charge of juror selection.

    Keil said the judge has set aside two week for the process of questioning jurors to determine their suitability to hear the case.

    “Approximately 200 people will be pulled (summoned for jury duty),” Picoitta said. “A limited number of jurors will be called each day.”

    Piper is one of three men charged with Poage’s murder.

    Elijah Page also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. He waived his appeals and was executed in 2007.

    Darrell Hoadley was sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of Page’s murder.

    Piper, Page and Hoadley kidnapped Poage and robbed his mother's house in 2000. They killed Poage to cover up their crime. His body was found several weeks later in a stream.

    In 2001, Piper and Page pleaded guilty to the torture slaying in the belief their best chance of escaping the death penalty was to admit to the crime and have a judge determine their sentence in hopes of receiving life in prison; both men instead were sentenced to death by the judge who presided over their trial. Page was executed in 2007 after waiving further appeals.

    A jury convicted Hoadley of Poage's murder and gave him a life sentence.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news...#ixzz1REkakAaO

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    Judge Admonishes Potential Jury

    The resentencing trial of Briley Piper resumed Monday with a reprimand.

    Judge Jerome Eckrich admonished a potential jury panel of nine people, after hearing that they had been discussing their views on the death penalty in the jury room.

    Once the court gets 57 people in the pool the prosecution and defense will choose the final 15 jurors to hear the case later this month.

    The State Supreme Court ruled that a jury, not a judge, should decide if piper should get life in prison or the death penalty for his role in the murder of 19 year old Chester Allen Poage in 2001.

    Jury selection is expected to wrap up this week.

    http://www.kotaradio.com/news.asp?eid=5002&ID=9406

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    Piper trial to begin Monday

    RAPID CITY Jury selection is wrapping up for the trial of a convicted murderer, with the sentencing trial set to begin Monday.

    The jury will determine the sentence of Briley Piper, one of three men convicted in the killing of Spearfish man Chester Allen Poage in 2000. Piper will either receive life in prison or, if the jury is unanimous, the death penalty.
    Click to learn more...

    Piper, of Anchorage, Alaska, pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to death in 2001 by 4th Circuit Court Judge Warren Johnson, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.

    Fourth Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich now oversees the case.

    Elijah Page, of Athens, Texas, also pleaded guilty in 2001 and received the death sentence from Johnson. He was executed in July 2007.

    Darrel Hoadley, of Lead, was found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to life in prison.

    Piper's trial is scheduled to begin Monday at 1:15 p.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City, and is expected to end sometime in early August.

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    Piper's attorney says client is sorry for role in 2000 killing, argues life should be spared

    RAPID CITY, S.D. The attorney for an Alaska man facing the death penalty for his role in the killing of a 19-year-old South Dakota man says his client's life should be spared because he is sorry for his actions.

    Defense attorney Robert Van Norman told jurors Monday that Briley Piper is no longer the "lost boy" he once was. He says Piper while in prison has worked to overcome his learning disability and attention deficit disorder, completing 45 hours of college coursework.

    Piper is being resentenced for his admitted role in the 2000 killing of Chester Poage (POHG) near Spearfish. A judge initially sentenced Piper to death, but the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that he should have been sentenced by a jury.

    Opening statements in the resentencing began Monday afternoon.

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