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State v. Jensen

Supreme Court of South Dakota

April 19, 2017

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
PAUL DEAN JENSEN, Defendant and Appellant.



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

          JEFF LARSON Jeff Larson Law, LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          GILBERTSON, Chief Justice

         [¶1.] In 1996, Paul Dean Jensen received concurrent, mandatory life sentences for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Michael Hare. Jensen was 14 years old when he committed the offenses. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued Miller v. Alabama, barring mandatory life sentences against juvenile homicide offenders. 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). Jensen filed a motion in circuit court to have his sentence corrected. After the United States Supreme Court issued Montgomery v. Louisiana, which declared that Miller applies retroactively, the court held a resentencing hearing. See U.S., 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016). At the conclusion of the hearing, the sentencing court resentenced Jensen to concurrent, 200-year sentences for first-degree murder and kidnapping. Jensen appeals. We affirm


         [¶2.] On January 14, 1996, 14-year-old Jensen and 16-year-old Shawn Springer carried out their plan to rob a taxi driver in Pierre, South Dakota. Armed with a gun and fitted with bandanas to cover their faces, Jensen and Springer called for a taxi to pick them up in the back parking lot of a local hotel. The taxi company dispatched driver Michael Hare to the hotel. Hare parked and waited in the front parking lot, just outside the hotel's entrance. Jensen and Springer realized that the taxi was not going to pick them up in the rear parking lot and decided that they could not keep their faces covered with bandanas if they entered the taxi in front of the hotel. Jensen and Springer uncovered their faces, entered the taxi, and directed Hare to drive them to Fort Pierre.

         [¶3.] Shortly thereafter, Hare stopped the taxi on a gravel road outside Fort Pierre. Jensen pointed a gun at Hare, and Springer and Jensen demanded that Hare give them all his money. Hare insisted that he only had $30 and gave the money to Jensen and Springer. Jensen got out of the taxi with the gun drawn and ordered Hare to exit the vehicle. Hare begged for his life. Jensen shot Hare three times and walked back toward the taxi. Jensen grabbed Hare's billfold, which had been placed on the hood of the taxi. Jensen got into the passenger's seat, and Springer, who had already relocated to the driver's seat, began to drive away. Law enforcement learned of the robbery while Jensen and Springer were leaving the scene and located the taxi being driven by Springer. A high-speed chase ensued but ended when Springer drove the taxi into a snowbank. The officers arrested Jensen and Springer.

         [¶4.] In August 1996, Springer pleaded guilty to kidnapping and agreed to testify against Jensen. The sentencing court sentenced Springer to 261 years in prison. Jensen, after being transferred to adult court, pleaded not guilty. On October 4, 1996, a jury found Jensen guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, aiding and abetting grand theft, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Only his convictions for first-degree murder and kidnapping are relevant in this appeal. For those convictions, the sentencing court imposed concurrent sentences of mandatory life in prison. We affirmed Jensen's convictions and sentences in State v. Jensen, 1998 S.D. 52, 579 N.W.2d 613.

         [¶5.] After the United States Supreme Court issued Miller, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, Jensen filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The circuit court granted Jensen's motion and held a resentencing hearing on June 2-3, 2016. At the hearing, both the State and Jensen presented expert testimony on the mitigating qualities of Jensen's youth, namely evidence related to Jensen's childhood and Jensen's emotional, social, psychological, and intellectual attributes as a juvenile offender. The parties also presented expert testimony on Jensen's changed, matured character as an adult. The State presented evidence regarding Jensen's potential for release under the parole system in effect at the time of his crimes, referred to as the "old system." The current parole system provides presumptive release to offenders; the old system used a discretionary system. The State's witnesses described the old parole system and explained what factors the parole board would typically consider before releasing a prisoner into the community.

         [¶6.] At the conclusion of the resentencing hearing, the court orally sentenced Jensen to 200 years in prison for both first-degree murder and kidnapping and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Jensen would be eligible for discretionary parole at age 39 and for parole based on good-time credit at age 116.

         [¶7.] Jensen appeals, asserting the following issues:

1. Whether concurrent, 200-year sentences constitute cruel and ...

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