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SD Religious Leaders Hold Good Friday Death Penalty Vigil

Death penalty opponents hold a vigil at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on Good Friday. (iStockphoto)
Death penalty opponents hold a vigil at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on Good Friday. (iStockphoto)
March 25, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A group of death penalty opponents is holding a Good Friday vigil to protest the use of capital punishment in South Dakota.

The group is having its 19th annual prayer service outside the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, the only prison in the state where executions are performed.

Denny Davis, director of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, says some people at the prayer service will be signing a notarized living will document saying if they are murdered, they do not want their killer to be given a death sentence.

"The death penalty's not about what they do; the death penalty is about what we do," says Davis. "Yes, they are guilty of what they have done, but we're all responsible in terms of bringing life back into that situation, not only for the person who committed the crime, but for the victim's family."

The most recent effort to repeal South Dakota's death penalty was voted down in a Senate committee just a few weeks ago.

Supporters of the state's capital punishment law argue it can help provide closure for victims' families.

Davis supported Republican state Senator and retired judge Arthur Rusch's failed plan to abolish the death penalty during the last legislative session.

Rusch has argued state executions go against traditionally conservative ideas, such as limited government and fiscal responsibility. Davis agrees, saying the death penalty costs more than putting a murderer behind bars for life.

"The death trials cost 10 times the cost of a first-degree murder trial and life in prison. Life in prison without parole is a disguised form of the death penalty," Davis says. "It is a death sentence; they are going to die in prison."

Currently, three men are sitting on death row in South Dakota. The state has executed at least three other inmates since 1976.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD