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State v. Talla

Supreme Court of South Dakota

June 7, 2017

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
JANNO KOLLAY TALLA, Defendant and Appellant.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS MAY 30, 2017

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E. HOFFMAN Judge

          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General CULLEN P. MCNEECE Assistant Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          BEAU J. BLOUIN of Minnehaha County Public Defenders Office Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.

         [¶1.] Janno Kollay Talla appeals his sentence of life imprisonment for one count of first-degree manslaughter. Talla argues that in light of other sentences imposed for manslaughter in Minnehaha County, as well as his alleged lack of criminal history, the circuit court abused its discretion. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] Talla was born in Barentu, Eritrea, in 1984 and immigrated to the United States as a refugee sometime around 2012. After living in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a short time, he moved to Sioux Falls, where he began a relationship with Ammuna Gayya. The two moved in together, and in late 2013, Gayya became pregnant with Talla's child. In August 2014, prior to their child's birth, Talla obtained new employment in Worthington, Minnesota, which required him to relocate. Gayya, who was in her late teens at the time, stayed in Sioux Falls to be close to her mother. Gayya gave birth to a boy in September 2014.

         [¶3.] For a time, Talla and Gayya continued their relationship, and Talla provided some financial support to Gayya and their son. When Talla would visit Sioux Falls on his days off, he would stay with Gayya and their son. However, Gayya eventually became romantically involved with another man, Danga Kotudi, and ended her relationship with Talla. According to Talla, Gayya denied having a relationship with Kotudi on several occasions when confronted by Talla. During this time, Gayya also formally sought child support from Talla.[1]

         [¶4.] On October 29, 2015, while visiting Sioux Falls, Talla saw Gayya with Kotudi. Talla was jealous because he wished to continue his relationship with Gayya, so he drove to Kotudi's apartment to confront them. Talla waited 30 to 40 minutes for them to return. He placed a folding knife with a six-inch blade in his pocket, intending to kill Kotudi. After Kotudi and Gayya returned, Talla went inside and confronted them. After speaking with them for several minutes, Talla informed Kotudi that the two of them were going to fight to the death. Kotudi refused, and Talla drew his weapon and stabbed Kotudi in his left arm. Kotudi fled the apartment while his friend, Banana Tsegay, and Gayya attempted to restrain Talla. Talla stabbed Gayya, puncturing her left lung and heart. Gayya attempted to flee the apartment, but only made it a few feet before collapsing in the hallway. Talla did not attempt to render aid; instead, he fled. Gayya died from her wound about an hour later, but Kotudi survived.

         [¶5.] Following the encounter, Talla drove back to Worthington. Local law enforcement was waiting and arrested him as he exited the interstate highway. Talla's pants had Gayya's blood on them. Law enforcement found the folding knife in the glove compartment of Talla's car. The next day, Sioux Falls police searched Talla's car and discovered a suitcase, which contained clothes, medications, a white envelope with $2, 600 cash, a 0.25 caliber handgun, and a brown wallet containing identification cards and documents for one "Malik Mensur."[2] During a subsequent interview, Talla admitted that he intended to kill Kotudi and had been planning to do so for months.

         [¶6.] Talla was indicted on 12 counts, including two counts of first-degree murder (premeditated and felony murder), one count of second-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of aggravated assault, and three counts of stalking. Eventually, Talla and the State entered into a plea agreement. Talla agreed to plead guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter and one count of attempted first-degree murder. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining counts and to recommend concurrent sentences. The agreement did not require the State to recommend a particular length of imprisonment for either count. At a change-of-plea hearing on June 17, 2016, Talla pleaded guilty, and the State produced a written factual statement signed by Talla. Three months later, after the completion of a presentence investigation, the circuit court sentenced Talla to concurrent terms of imprisonment: 25 years for attempted first-degree murder and life for first-degree manslaughter.

         [¶7.] Talla appeals, raising one issue: Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in sentencing him to imprisonment for life for first-degree manslaughter.

         Standard ...


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