Justices reject South Dakota's only death row inmate's case

Anti-abortion activists with "Bound 4 Life" demonstrate at the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term without the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Anti-abortion activists with "Bound 4 Life" demonstrate at the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term without the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court refused on Monday to take up an appeal from South Dakota’s only death row inmate, who pleaded guilty to taking part in a torture killing 20 years ago.

The court did not comment in leaving in place the death sentence for Briley Piper, 39, of Anchorage, Alaska, who was one of three people convicted in the killing of Chester Allen Poage of Spearfish, South Dakota. One has been executed and the other is serving a life sentence in prison.

Prosecutors said the three men were high on methamphetamine and LSD when they decided to burglarize Poage’s home. The episode ended with the men stoning Poage to death. One of the defendants, Elijah Page, was executed in 2007. A third man, Darrell Hoadley, was convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

The South Dakota Supreme Court upheld Poage's sentence in 2019. Justices said the arguments from Piper were “untimely” and didn’t contest his guilt, Piper had argued in his appeal that his guilty pleas were not made voluntarily or intelligently, and he blamed his defense counsel for that.

South Dakota's last execution was in November 2019, when Charles Russell Rhines died by lethal injection for the 1992 fatal stabbing of a doughnut shop worker.