Former Prosecutor Talks About Wright Case

By Ben Dunsmoor

Death penalty cases have been few and far between in South Dakota. Former Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten prosecuted the Donald Moeller case in 1992. Moeller was sentenced to death after raping and murdering a nine year old girl.

Former States Attorney Jeff Masten says in South Dakota it takes a brutal crime to convince a jury to sentence somebody to death, and the longer this jury deliberates at this point in the case the more the case will lean against the death penalty if Daphne Wright is convicted.

South Dakotans are not known for sentencing criminals to death.

Former Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten says, “In order to qualify for the death penalty in this state it really has to be a humdinger of a murder, just you’re garden variety killing isn’t going to cut it.”

Former Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten says this case could fit in that category.
He also says both the prosecution and defense have most likely been setting up the sentencing phase of this trial for weeks.

Masten says, “The state’s laying it’s foundation they are showing all the terrible things that happened because in order to be eligible for the death penalty it has to fall in one of ten categories.”

Masten says the defense most likely made it’s move this morning when the judge gave the jury an option of convicting Wright on three other alternate counts of murder and manslaughter that do not carry a death penalty sentence.

Masten says, “You need something in there to get the jury talking. You need something in there to lay the foundation for maybe this isn’t first degree murder.”

And the more the jury asks questions and deliberates in this stage, the more likely the sentence will not be death if Daphne Wright is convicted.

Masten says, “What the defense will be looking for is did they have trouble getting to that guilt verdict if they had trouble getting there they are going to be pretty nervous about imposing the death penalty theoretically.”

Masten did not expect the jury to come up with a verdict Wednesday night because he says they have listened to almost two weeks of testimony and they’ll want to take all that into account before they reach a verdict.

(( Source:  KELOLAND TV ))

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