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State v. Springer

Supreme Court of South Dakota

November 12, 2014

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
SHAWN CAMERON SPRINGER, Defendant and Appellant

Argued October 8, 2014


MARTY J. JACKLEY, Attorney General, ANN C. MEYER, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

JAMIE L. DAMON, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorney for defendant and appellant.

WILBUR, Justice. GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, and KONENKAMP and SEVERSON, Justices, and ROEHR, Circuit Court Judge, concur. ROEHR, Circuit Court Judge, sitting for ZINTER, Justice, disqualified.


Page 461

WILBUR, Justice

[¶1] In August 1996, 16-year-old Shawn Cameron Springer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of years in prison for kidnapping Michael Hare. Springer is eligible for parole after he serves 33 years of his sentence. Based on subsequent United States Supreme Court decisions, Springer filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The circuit court denied the motion. We affirm.


[¶2] The facts which relate to the kidnapping, robbery, and murder of Michael Hare can be found in greater detail at State v. Jensen, 1998 S.D. 52, PP 2-17, 579 N.W.2d 613, 614-16. To summarize, Springer and Paul Dean Jensen, who was 14 years old, called for a taxi on the night of January 14, 1996, in Pierre, South Dakota. Springer and Jensen directed the driver, Michael Hare, to take them to a rural area near Fort Pierre. Once they reached a gravel road outside Fort Pierre, Jensen exited the taxi with a gun drawn and demanded that Hare get out. Hare obeyed and Jensen robbed Hare at gunpoint. Jensen then shot Hare in the chest. Hare begged for his life, but Jensen executed Hare by firing two bullets into his head. Hare died instantly. Jensen grabbed the money (which amounted to just over $36), jumped into the taxi, and Springer drove back to the main road. A police officer met Springer at the main road, and a chase ensued. Springer drove the taxi into a snow bank, and the police apprehended both juveniles.

[¶3] A Stanley County Grand Jury indicted Springer on April 4, 1996, for multiple crimes, including first-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping, robbery, grand theft, conspiracy, possession of a stolen vehicle, and aiding and abetting some of the aforementioned crimes. Springer entered into a plea agreement with the State, and on August 12, 1996, the Honorable Max L. Gors held a change of plea hearing, at which the court informed Springer of his statutory and constitutional rights, and the potential minimum and maximum punishments. Springer agreed to cooperate with the police, testify against Jensen, and provide a factual statement of the events surrounding the crimes. In return, the State dropped the other charges, and Springer pleaded guilty to Kidnapping, a Class 1 felony, in violation of SDCL 22-19-1(2) with a maximum potential punishment of life without parole. Both sides were free to recommend any sentence they felt appropriate.

[¶4] At the October sentencing hearing,[1] the State and the victim's family advocated

Page 462

for life in prison without parole while Springer's attorneys requested a 30-year sentence. Springer's attorneys argued that Springer was young, could give back to society, cooperated with the State, was smart, contrite, could be rehabilitated, had lacked proper guidance throughout his life, had a poor home life, barely knew his father, and did not have any positive role models. The State argued that Springer had lied in his factual statement, had planned the robbery and murder, failed to prevent the murder, lacked remorse, had a bad juvenile record, and his rehabilitation chances were poor. The victim's family members expressed sorrow at the loss of Hare. Springer apologized to the victim's family.

[¶5] Judge Gors ruled as follows:

There are a number of factors which I'm going to take into consideration. Some fall on the side of being harsh, and some fall on the side of being lenient. One that falls on the harsh side is the overriding consideration in any sentence like this, is that Michael Hare is dead, and he can't ever come back.
I think it's also clear from the evidence that this terrible crime was planned, and that Mr. Springer had a part in the planning, the robbery part at a minimum.
On the other hand, Mr. Springer did not shoot Mr. Hare. Mr. Springer did plead guilty to [kidnapping]. Mr. Springer did save the time and expense of a trial. Mr. Springer also saved the Hare family one trial to have to go through.
He did testify against Mr. Jensen, whether his testimony was helpful or not, is hard to say. My estimate of the State's case against Paul Jensen was that the State would have won it with or without Mr. Springer's testimony.
And I think that Mr. Springer is at least to all appearances beginning to be contrite in his conduct.
Because of all these factors,[2] I am going to impose a sentence in this case that may be a life sentence, but it may not be. I do think that ultimately there is a possibility of rehabilitation in a person so young. So I'm going to give him a term of years rather than a life sentence without parole.
Accordingly, Mr. Springer, it will be the judgment of the court that you spend 261 years in prison. There to be fed, clothed, and housed at the expense of the State of South Dakota.
You're under the old system of sentencing parole because your crime was committed prior to July 1st of 1996. 261 years translates to a flat time sentence of 132 years, which I believe is beyond your ...

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