South Dakota Offender Cases







Paul Dean Jensen, Jr.

12-13-13 PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota judge has granted a resentencing hearing for a man serving a life prison sentence for killing a cab driver near Fort Pierre nearly 18 years ago.

Paul Dean Jensen Jr., of Pierre, was 14 at the time Michael Hare was slain. Jensen argued that his sentence is illegal under a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles.

Defense attorney Jeff Larson said during Friday’s hearing that the case involves correcting the sentence, not changing the conviction.

But prosecutor Tom P. Maher said Jensen’s sentence was lawful in 1996 and remains lawful today.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year said life sentences without parole for juveniles cannot be automatic, but left open the possibility that judges could still sentence juveniles to life without parole after considering the circumstances of each case.

State prosecutors have argued that the Supreme Court ruling does not apply retroactively to cases such as Jensen’s.

However, Circuit Judge John Brown said he felt compelled by the Supreme Court ruling to allow a resentencing in Jensen’s case. A hearing date will be set later.

Prosecutors have said Jensen and Shawn Cameron Springer, who was 16 at the time, had Hare drive them out of town and then robbed him before shooting him to death. Prosecutors said Jensen pulled the trigger.

Springer was sentenced to 261 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping, and a judge in June refused to reduce his sentence.

SD man challenges life sentence for murder


FORT PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota man is asking to be resentenced for a slaying committed when he was 14 years old, prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles

Paul Dean Jensen Jr., of Pierre, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after he was convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and other offenses for the 1996 killing of cab driver Michael Hare near Fort Pierre. Jensen, now 31, argues that his sentence is illegal under last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court said life sentences without parole for juveniles cannot be automatic, but it left open the possibility that judges could still sentence juveniles to life without parole after considering the circumstances of each case.

Acting as his own lawyer, Jensen filed a 28-page, mostly handwritten motion asking that his sentence be declared illegal so he can be resentenced. He also asked that a lawyer be appointed to represent him in the case.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said he believes that under state law the U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not apply retroactively to Jensen’s case and two other cases in which juvenile offenders were sentenced to life without parole. Even if the decision does apply retroactively, Jensen’s prison term is unlikely to be affected because he also is serving a life sentence for kidnapping that was set at the trial judge’s discretion, he said.

At Jackley’s urging, the Legislature this year changed the law that had required life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of murder. In the future, judges will have discretion to impose sentences of up to life after considering the facts of each case, Jackley said.

Stanley County State’s Attorney Tom P. Maher declined to comment until he files a written response to Jensen’s request. Maher, who was not the county prosecutor when Jensen was convicted and sentenced, said he is going through three boxes of records from the 1996 case.

Prosecutors said Jensen and Shawn Cameron Springer, who was 16 at the time, had Hare drive them out of town and they robbed him of$36.48 before shooting him to death. Prosecutors said Jensen pulled the trigger. Springer was sentenced to 261 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping, and a judge last month refused to reduce his sentence.

In the motion filed in circuit court, Jensen said that the U.S. Supreme Court and various studies have found that 14-year-olds are immature, impulsive and susceptible to pressure from others. He said 14-year-olds also are more likely than older criminals to be rehabilitated, but his mandatory life sentence would require him to die in prison.

“A typical fourteen-year-old who acts irresponsibly in reaction to a thrilling impulse or succumbs to peer pressure is not irretrievably depraved or permanently flawed. Nothing about his character is permanent, and he has years of development ahead, during which he can (and, in most cases, will) grow into a moral, law-abiding adult,” Jensen wrote.

However, when a trial judge sentenced Jensen, he cautioned everyone to take Jensen seriously because he had talked about killing other people.

And when the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld Jensen’s convictions and sentences in 1998, the justices said the punishment fit the crime.

“The evidence shows that Jensen shot the victim once in the chest, listened to the victim plead for his life on his knees, and then proceeded to shoot the man two more times in the head,” the state’s highest court said.


Shawn Cameron Springer

SD Judge Upholds Sentence In Cab Driver Killing

June 28, 2013, FORT PIERRE, SD – 

A South Dakota judge has upheld the 261-year prison sentence given to a Minnesota man who was 16 when he was involved in the 1996 kidnapping and murder of a Pierre taxicab driver.

Shawn Cameron Springer, who is now 34, pleaded guilty in 1996 to kidnapping for his role in the robbery and killing of Michael Hare.

Springer will be eligible for parole in 2029, but there is no guarantee he will be released then. He argued his 261-year prison sentence amounts to a life sentence in practice, so it would be struck down. He asked to be resentenced.

But after a brief hearing, Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl refused to set aside Springer’s sentence, saying it was legal.

Tim Caffrey

January 2011, thirty years after the 17-year-old shot his adoptive father to death at their Martin, South Dakota home, Tim Caffrey’s life sentence for manslaughter has been commuted to a sentence allowing a parole opportunity. Gov. Mike Rounds last week commuted Caffrey’s life sentence for manslaughter to a term of 237 years, making him eligible for parole this month. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has recommended a sentence reduction three times, could release Caffrey in March. Native American activists have campaigned for a lighter sentence for Tim Caffrey for the murder of his step father, William Caffrey, because of the drug and alcohol abuse rampant in the household.

Once again, NOVJL notes that the system can work to correct its own mistakes through the normal case by case avenues of clemency, appeals, and other legal proceedings, wtihout retroactive legislation mandating blanket parole for all cases.

Excerpts from news coverage from Jan. 7, 2007, 3 years before the gubernatorial clemency was announced:


In January 1981, Timothy Caffrey of Martin put a .25-caliber handgun to the side of his father’s head and pulled the trigger. Then he shot him again, stole the dead man’s money and set out to cover up the crime. It was, he concedes, a methodical act, one driven by what he viewed as a father turned irrational by alcohol abuse who wanted to part ways with the son because of Caffrey’s own drug abuse as a teenager.

Twenty-six years later, it remains Caffrey’s defining act.

After having a first-degree murder conviction overturned and subsequently pleading guilty to manslaughter, Caffrey has been serving a sentence of life without parole in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. The state parole board has recommended that the sentence be softened to allow Caffrey to one day get out. But Gov. Mike Rounds – advised by an attorney general who says Caffrey is a cold-blooded killer – has refused the change.

Caffrey has been up against the toughest manslaughter statute in the U.S. and South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who was the Bennett County state’s attorney in 1981 and prosecuted Caffrey. Long still contends “Timmy’s going to kill again if he gets the chance. That’s how psychopaths work.”

Advocates who have been drawn to Caffrey’s case over the years are dismayed by that.

In 2003, the parole board said Caffrey’s sentence should be commuted to 100 years. Gov. Mike Rounds did not act for eight months, then finally denied the commutation.

“If they give Timmy parole and the governor approves it and gives him a cut, that’s the way the system works,” Long said. “I understand it. I work in the system. But I won’t be happy if Timmy makes parole.”

Rounds’ spokeswoman, Roxy Everson, says the governor typically does not comment on commutation decisions, but in Caffrey’s case his decision was based on a review of the recommendation and upon comments in Caffrey’s existing case file. She also says Rounds “does not think any statute is necessarily perfect and might always be subject to Legislative review.

While manslaughter can carry a maximum sentence of life without parole, the governor noted it is not a mandatory sentence but rather provides a judge with discretion. The governor does not use different criteria for reviewing commutations and pardon recommendations based upon whether the individual is white or Native American.”

The case illustrates South Dakota’s stringent sentencing for manslaughter. South Dakota and Oklahoma, which features a maximum indeterminate sentence for manslaughter, are the only two states where people convicted of that crime can face life behind bars. Four states have the next longest maximum sentence at 40 years, according to the South Dakota Criminal Code Revision Committee.

Caffrey said he is sure Long holds no personal animosity toward him.

“I just figure he’s doing his job,” he said. But he also looks at the three inmates from Martin serving manslaughter sentences. The two Native Americans are doing life; the one white man is doing 75 years.

“That’s one thing I can’t understand,” Caffrey said.

Jennifer Ring, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the Dakotas, said part of the reason South Dakota’s manslaughter maximum sentence is so extreme is that “in South Dakota manslaughter includes some offenses that in other states would be considered murder. This is something that needs review.

“The other thing is South Dakota just has very harsh sentences for a lot of things.”

Like Caffrey, Ring sees disparity in the way the statute is applied.

“In my personal opinion, South Dakota white people have a concern about Indian people, and that is fueling a feeling about needing to keep a strong hand on things,” she said.

Long said the manslaughter law “grants the maximum amount of discretion to the judge. There is no state in the union that gives more discretion to the judge in a case of first-degree manslaughter. The judge could have given him probation. He could have said, ‘Your dad’s a drunk and you get to shoot him.’ ”

In 2000, Donald Heck, a Kadoka lawyer and retired circuit judge, who sentenced Caffrey, wrote Berkeland, “My recollection is that the sentence was mandatory, so I had little discretion in the matter.”

Eventually all Caffrey’s efforts to gain parole must come to this: he sits at a table and talks about killing his adoptive father.

“It wasn’t just me shooting my father. It was me messing up my whole family life. It made for a long, hard life for my mom,” he said.

Olive Caffrey forgave him and visited him about once a year in prison before she died, according to Caffrey. But a brother in Arizona and sister in Martin haven’t seen him in years.

“The last time I saw him was maybe eight years ago. I haven’t gone by myself,” said relative Christie Phipps. “I’m sure he’s changed. He was just a child when he went in.”

She and her brother Robert were more than a decade older than Caffrey. Her parents took in foster children, she said. “We got Timmy and they fell in love with him. My mom and dad decided they couldn’t let him go back.”

William Caffrey told his adopted son one day he’d have to choose in large measure to follow the traditions of the Oglala Lakota culture he was born into or the white culture into which he’d been adopted. He said it didn’t matter to him which culture he chose, only that he choose wisely, Caffrey said of his father.

But that image of wise parenting is offset by William Caffrey’s problems with alcohol and his frustration with Tim Caffrey’s use of alcohol and marijuana. It had been boiling up between them for about six months, Caffrey said.

“Two people butting heads, and something’s got to give. I handled the situation the wrong way,” he said.

William Caffrey had sought treatment for alcohol abuse, according to Long.

“Because his father was sober, his father had started taking an interest in Timmy’s scholastic life and in making him go to church,” Long said. “There was a whole bunch of things his recent sobriety had brought upon him.”

On a day when his wife was out of town visiting relatives, William Caffrey found his 17-year-old son’s stash of marijuana, confronted him and after discussing punishment, William Caffrey phoned his minister, Long said.

“Timmy overhears part of this conversation. Bill said to his pastor, ‘I ought to give the kid $50 and throw his ass out of the house,’ ” Long said.

“Then Bill leaves the house. Timmy, of course, knows his father’s habits intimately. He knows his dad is going to go and buy some booze and knows he will hide it in the yard because Timmy’s mother doesn’t allow booze in the house.

“While Timmy’s father is gone, what Timmy does is round up his mother’s .25 automatic pistol. He loads it and hides behind the kitchen door and waits for his father to come home. When Bill hides the beer out in the yard, Timmy’s waiting for him behind the kitchen door. As Bill walks into the house, Timmy lays that .25 next to his father’s ear and squeezes off a round at point blank range.”

As William Caffrey fell, his son shot him a second time, the bullet striking tools he was carrying in his back pocket.

Tim Caffrey recovered one shell casing but the second rolled away under a refrigerator, Long said. Then Caffrey packed food and clothes, took his father’s billfold and the gun and, after driving around town for about half an hour, picked up a friend and said he’d be allowed to stay overnight. But he had to tell his father where he’d be.

Under that pretext, he drove back home with the friend and pretended to discover the body, Long said.

While he was being questioned by police, an officer discovered the gun and other items Caffrey had hidden in the family car. At that point, Caffrey wrote out a confession and took from a pocket the shell casing he’d recovered, Long said.

What would he do if he were out, sister wonders

Caffrey was convicted of first degree murder, but the state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that his confession had been coerced.

Long said he went ahead with a second trial even without the confession “because frankly I had another piece of evidence that was almost as compelling.”

While he was in the Bennett County jail, Caffrey wrote a letter to the local newspaper, published by Long’s parents.

“In that letter, he explained that his father was a drunk and was mean to him and kind of needed killing. Would the jurors of Bennett County please keep that in mind,” Long said.

Caffrey was represented by Stan Whiting, a court-appointed lawyer from Winner. To avoid the cost of a second murder trial, Long said he gave Caffrey the option to plead guilty to manslaughter.

Caffrey hasn’t given up. “I’m not institutionalized,” he insists.

“I don’t fear parole,” he said. “I would not go out there to mess up.”

His sister is unsure whether he should be paroled.

“He’s been in there so long, I really wonder what he would do if he got out,” Phipps said. “That doesn’t have anything to do with what happened or what he did, just what would he do?”

He isn’t owed anything, Caffrey said. He killed his father. It was his choice. He deserved to go to prison. But the defining event of his life is not the sum of his life, he said.

He hopes people will look at 25 years in the penitentiary, not one day in Martin in 1981. He has, aside from a few missteps, avoided trouble in prison.

“The way I’ve carried myself in this place, maybe I’ve earned a spot,” he said. “Maybe I’ve earned one more chance.”