For the second time in roughly two weeks, South Dakota executed its eighteenth inmate in the history of the state or Dakota Territory by lethal injection on Oct. 30.
Donald Moeller, who has been awaiting his death sentence at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in solitary confinement since 1992, was executed by state officials at approximately 10:24 p.m.
According to Keloland News, Moeller, 60, was charged and convicted of the 1990 kidnapping, raping and murdering of 9-year-old Becky O’Connell. Since then, Moeller has been appealing for an alternative sentence, stalling the execution.
In a statement made earlier this month in a court hearing, Moeller admitted to committing the crime, clearing the way for his execution to proceed.
“If the rape and murder of Becky O’Connell doesn’t deserve the death penalty, then I don’t know what does,” Moeller said.
Attempting to stop the execution, a woman by the name of Donna Nichols, who claims to be Moeller’s stepsister, filed a Motion for a Stay of Execution earlier this month. A Federal District Judge denied the Motion of Stay, saying there was no further jurisdiction and the Motion was found to be without merit.
Earlier this month, the state executed Eric Robert, who was not on South Dakota’s death row for nearly as long as Moeller. Robert was sentenced to death for the murder of a prison guard in a failed escape from the S.D. State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls in spring 2011.
Since the executions of Moeller and Robert, there are currently three more inmates sentenced to South Dakota death row. Charles Rhines, Briley Piper and Rodney Berget all face the possibility of death by lethal injection.
According to Elizabeth Smith, a political science professor who teaches a class on the death penalty, South Dakota is among a decreasing number of states that have the death penalty.
“South Dakota almost never uses it,” Smith said.
She also said because of personal backgrounds and beliefs, capital punishment is one of the biggest issues each state needs to address.
Senior Brad Omland, president of College Libertarians, said he agrees states need to have more correspondence with each other about their stance on the death penalty.
“There could be more awareness among the states,” Omland said. “It is nothing that should be taken lightly.”
Junior Chelsea Mattson said capital punishment is a matter of situations.
“Under some circumstances, the death penalty is OK, because otherwise they are just taking up space and wasting tax dollars,” Mattson said.
Ashley Pemble, a passerby in the Muenster University Center, said in some instances, like Moeller’s case where child rape and murder is involved, the death penalty is justifiable.
“I am OK with handing out the death penalty to Moeller for what he did,” Pemble said.
Omland said it is not so much an issue South Dakota has executed two inmates in two weeks’ time, but more about the fact the general public does not know there are other executions occurring in other states.
Joyce Trudeau, president of College Democrats, said two executions in one month is a big deal for South Dakota.
“It says something about South Dakota’s government,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau also said capital punishment is more or less an option of desperation.
Heather Mathisen, a first-year student, said she agrees with Trudeau’s stance of the death penalty being an escape from reality.
“It is two people being killed and it can not be taken lightly,” Mathisen said.
Senior Collin Michels, co-president of College Republicans, said, like South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard stated, capital punishment is a last resort.
“I do not think it (the death penalty) represents who we are as a state,” Michels said.
Whatever position people decide to take on capital punishment, Smith said what people choose to believe about the death penalty comes down to two deciding factors.
“There’s a good deal of correspondence between religion and political views on the death penalty,” Smith said. “It’s important to critically think about what you believe in and why you believe it and listen to other people’s ideas on what they believe and why.”