ON JANUARY 10, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MEADE
COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JEROME A. ECKRICH, III
J. JACKLEY ANN C. MEYER ROBERT MAYER Attorneys for plaintiff
A. D'ADDARIO BRYAN A. STEVENSON JOHN W. DALTON and BRAD
SCHRIEBER ROBERT VAN NORMAN Attorneys for defendant and
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.
On April 17, 2000, a jury found Charles guilty of the 1999
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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 ...