CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS MAY 30, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E.
J. JACKLEY Attorney General CULLEN P. MCNEECE Assistant
Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff
J. BLOUIN of Minnehaha County Public Defenders Office Sioux
Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.
GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
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
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." During a subsequent interview, Talla
admitted that he intended to kill Kotudi and had been
planning to do so for months.
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
Talla appeals, raising one issue: Whether the circuit court
abused its discretion in sentencing him to imprisonment for
life for first-degree manslaughter.