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Springer v. Dooley

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division

October 28, 2015

ROBERT DOOLEY, Warden; and MARTY JACKLEY, Attorney General of the State of South Dakota, Respondents.



Petitioner, Shawn Cameron Springer (Springer), filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his 261-year sentence with the possibility of parole is cruel and unusual punishment violating the Eighth Amendment and contravening the holdings of Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama. Doc. 1. Springer also moved for a hearing on his petition. Doc 11. Respondents, Robert Dooley, Warden of Mike Durfee State Prison, and Marty Jackley, Attorney General of the State of South Dakota, moved to dismiss Springer's petition, arguing that the petition is time-barred under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Docs. 13, 14. Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, this Court has reviewed the record, including the answer and record of state proceedings, and has determined that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted. For the reasons explained below, a 261-year sentence imposed on Springer with the possibility of parole does not contravene the provision of the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment as interpreted in Graham and Miller. Therefore, Respondents' motion to dismiss is granted.


As a juvenile, Springer pleaded guilty to Kidnapping-a Class 1 felony in violation of S.D.C.L. § 22-19-1(2) (1996) which carried a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole[1] -as part of a plea agreement whereby other charges, including first-degree murder, were dismissed. Doc. 14-1 at 1. Springer and his co-defendant Paul Dean Jensen had planned, kidnapped, and robbed Michael Hare, and Jensen, with Springer present, then murdered Hare.[2]On October 15, 1996, Judge Max A. Gors of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the State of South Dakota held a sentencing hearing where Springer's counsel advocated that Springer was only sixteen at the time of the offense, that he was smart, could be rehabilitated, and eventually would be able to give back to society. South Dakota v. Springer. 2014 S.D. 80, ¶ 4, 856 N.W.2d 460, 461-62; Doc. 14-1. Springer's counsel also argued that Springer lacked proper guidance, did not have an appropriate father figure, and experienced a disadvantaged upbringing. Id. The State countered that Springer had planned the robbery and murder, did not stop Jensen from killing the victim, lied in initial statements to authorities, lacked remorse, had a previous criminal record, and was a poor prospect for rehabilitation. Springer, ¶4, 856 N.W.2d at 461-62. The presentence investigation prepared for Springer's sentencing hearing included detailed information about Springer's family life and history, his prior record, financial condition, and the circumstances of the offense. Id. ¶ 4 n.l, 856 N.W.2d at 462.

Judge Gors orally announced his sentencing determination from the bench:

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, 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 1 st of 1996. 261 years translates to a flat time sentence of 132 years, which I believe is beyond your lifetime, and so in effect this is a life sentence.
But there is also a glimmer of hope down the road, because with your being a first-time offender, you would be eligible for parole, by my calculations, at the conclusion of 33 years. That gives you an opportunity to convince someone in the future that you can be trusted to be back out of prison. I think that the factors that you-that I ...

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