South Dakota Juvenile Sentencing in Jensen Case Upheld as Constitutional
PIERRE S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announces that the South Dakota Supreme Court has reiterated that South Dakota’s amended Juvenile Statutory Sentencing Scheme complies with U.S. Supreme Court Case Law and affirms Paul Dean Jensen’s sentence for the murder and kidnapping of Michael Hare.
“The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld our legislative changes to juvenile sentencing that strike a balance with fairness and accountability. A 200-year sentence for this horrific murder was necessary to serve justice for the victim and to protect the public,” said Jackley.
On January 14, 1996, then 14-year old Paul Dean Jensen and 16-year old Shawn Springer, called for a taxi cab in Pierre, South Dakota. Jensen and Springer directed the taxi driver, Michael Hare, to take them to a rural area near Fort Pierre. Once they reached a gravel road outside Fort Pierre, Jensen exited the taxi with a gun drawn and demanded that Hare get out. Hare complied, and Jensen then shot Hare in the chest. As Hare begged for his life, Jensen executed Hare by firing two bullets into his head.
Jensen grabbed the money, (which amounted to just over $36), jumped into the taxi, Springer then drove the taxi into a snow bank and police apprehended both juveniles.
On October 4, 1996, a Stanley County 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. Jensen was ultimately sentenced to a life in prison.
Following Jensen’s sentence, the United States Supreme Court in a trio of cases including Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, (2012), held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution forbid sentencing schemes that mandate life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. Based upon the United States Supreme Court decisions, Jensen filed a motion to correct his sentence. The circuit court granted Jensen’s motion and held a resentencing hearing in June 2016. At the conclusion of the resentencing hearing, the court sentenced Jensen to 200 years in prison for both first-degree murder and kidnapping and ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
The South Dakota Supreme Court went on to recognize that in 2013 the South Dakota Legislature passed the Attorney General’s sponsored legislation in an effort to comply with recent U.S. Supreme Court case law. Specifically, the South Dakota legislature changed South Dakota law to authorize, but not mandate, a life sentence without parole for a juvenile offender if he is convicted of a Class A or B felony. Under the new amendments a juvenile may present any information in mitigation of punishment at their sentencing hearings. The South Dakota Supreme Court concluded that these statutory changes comply with U.S. Supreme Court case law precedence.
Jensen argued that his concurrent 200-year sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishments and that the sentencing court “made some statements that seem to stray from the Miller’s guidance,” rendering his sentence unconstitutional. The South Dakota Supreme ruled that the lower court did not stray from its duty to weigh and consider the Miller factors and that it specifically took into account Jensen’s youth at the time of the offenses.