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State v. Charles

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 29, 2017

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
DANIEL NEIL CHARLES a/k/a DANIEL HEINZELMAN a/k/a DANIEL INGALLS, Defendant and Appellant.

          ARGUED ON JANUARY 10, 2017

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MEADE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JEROME A. ECKRICH, III Judge

          MARTY J. JACKLEY ANN C. MEYER ROBERT MAYER Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          ALICIA A. D'ADDARIO BRYAN A. STEVENSON JOHN W. DALTON and BRAD SCHRIEBER ROBERT VAN NORMAN Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          WILBUR, Justice

         [¶1.] In 2000, Daniel Charles received a mandatory sentence of life in prison for first-degree murder. Charles was 14 years old when he committed the offense. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued Miller v. Alabama, which barred mandatory life sentences against juvenile homicide offenders. 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). Charles filed a motion to have his sentence corrected, and the court held a hearing. In 2015, the sentencing court resentenced Charles to 92 years in prison. Charles appeals. We affirm.

         Background

         [¶2.] On April 17, 2000, a jury found Charles guilty of the 1999 murder of

         Duane Ingalls, Charles's stepfather. Charles was 14 years old when he shot and murdered Ingalls. The sentencing court sentenced Charles to a mandatory sentence of life in prison. This Court affirmed Charles's conviction in State v. Charles, 2001 S.D. 67, 628 N.W.2d 734. In May 2011, Charles filed a motion in circuit court to correct an illegal sentence. He alleged that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In January 2015, the circuit court granted Charles's motion because the United States Supreme Court declared unconstitutional mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders. See Miller, 567 U.S. at, 132 S.Ct. at 2469.

         [¶3.] The sentencing court held a resentencing hearing on October 21-23, 2015. The same judge who had presided over Charles's 2000 trial also presided over Charles's resentencing. At the hearing, both the State and Charles presented evidence concerning Charles's childhood and the impact of that childhood on the nature of the crime. The State and Charles presented expert testimony related to Charles's emotional, social, psychological, and intellectual attributes as a juvenile offender and to his changed, matured character as an adult. Charles presented expert testimony that his behavior in prison for the past 16 years showed that Charles could live a meaningful and productive life outside prison. At the conclusion of the resentencing hearing, the court allowed oral victim-impact statements. The court recognized that one person making a statement-Ingalls's cousin-did not fit within the statutory definition of "victim" under SDCL 23A-27-1.1. The court allowed the cousin's oral statement over Charles's objection.

         [¶4.] On October 30, 2015, the court orally sentenced Charles to 92 years in prison. The court recognized that:

Miller vs. Alabama refines the [c]ourt's responsibility when determining an appropriate sentence for a juvenile killer. As [Charles's] prehearing sentencing memorandum notes, relevant, mitigating factors of youth include: Lack of maturity, an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, which implies the tendency to engage in behavior that is reckless, impulsive, or risky.
The Miler Court identified vulnerability to negative influences, outside pressures coupled with limited control over environment, and an inability to extricate oneself from horrific, crime-producing circumstances.
Miller observed that a child's character is not as well-formed as an adult's. Consequently, a juvenile's actions are less-likely to evidence irretrievable depravity. These characteristics diminish the penological justifications of a sentence: Retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation.
Finally, Miler says, "Life without parole foreswears the rehabilitative ideal and requires that an offender" - - "requires a finding that an offender is incorrigible which is at odds with the child's capacity for change."

         [¶5.] The court remarked that it accepted the principles of Miller "in general to youth." The court, however, did not find the characteristics of youth "universally applicable to each and every juvenile, whether that juvenile is a murderer or a prodigy." The court concluded that the general characteristics of youth did not cause Charles to pull the trigger. The court also did not believe that Charles's murder of Ingalls was "inexorably determined by youthful brain or undeveloped character." The court said, "To find otherwise, denies the existence of will." In the court's view, Charles was not a "child of tender years when he murdered his father[.]" The court identified that "an objective observer, giving Daniel Charles all the characteristics of youth, and even giving Daniel Charles - - giving credence to Daniel Charles' latest version of the events can yet conclude this was a cold-blooded murder, driven less by impulsivity than by a specific, long-formed intent to murder either Duane or his mother or others."

         [¶6.] The court recalled evidence from Charles's juvenile transfer hearing. At the hearing, Dr. Steven Manlove, who had completed a psychiatric examination of Charles, opined that Charles's murder of Ingalls was not an impulsive event. Rather, Charles exhibited chronic problems with manipulation, explosive anger, conduct disorder, and antisocial traits. The sentencing court noted that "after hearing all of the psychological experts, [it] cannot ignore the chronicity of those problems identified over 16 years ago." The court found that, in regard to Charles, "those traits observed in his childhood continue into adulthood."

         [¶7.] The court stated the goals of sentencing in general and noted that even if it assumed Miller stood for the proposition that the "rehabilitation ideal for a juvenile offender is preeminent over all the other goals of sentencing, " the court "must consider all the pertinent goals of sentencing." The gravity of the offense, according to the court, "is great, notwithstanding any lessened moral culpability associated with mitigating qualities of youth." Based on the evidence, the court concluded that "[s]ociety's not yet safe for Mr. Charles." The court highlighted that by Charles's "own admission, he has demonstrated the capacity for past and continuing violence in and out of prison." The court found incapacitation "a continuing factor of import." The court sentenced Charles to 92 years, "notwithstanding Daniel Charles' chronological age at the time" because "[s]ociety requires that ...


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