Political News

SD Supreme Court upholds sentence in killing of cab driver

Posted April 20

— The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld concurrent 200-year sentences against a Pierre man who was 14 when he killed a cab driver more than two decades ago.

A jury convicted Paul Dean Jensen Jr. of murder, kidnapping and other offenses in 1996 in the slaying that year of Michael Hare, and Jensen received life without parole.

Last year, a judge re-sentenced Jensen to a term of 200 years after a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles, but left open the possibility that judges could still issue life sentences after considering the circumstances of each case.

He would be eligible for parole in 2021 at age 39 and has a good-time release date in 2097 at age 116. Jensen, 35, appealed the lower court decision.

Jensen unsuccessfully argued to the state Supreme Court that the 200-year term is unconstitutional because it's functionally equivalent to life without parole, saying that he could remain parole eligible until he died without getting a real opportunity to be released. He asked for a second re-sentencing.

The high court declined and decided Wednesday that Jensen's sentence came after an individualized sentencing that considered his youth and prospects for rehabilitation as required by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Prosecutors have said Jensen and Shawn Cameron Springer, who was 16 at the time, hailed Hare's cab to drive them out of town and then robbed him of $36.48 before shooting him to death. Prosecutors said Jensen shot Hare once in the chest, listened to Hare plead for his life on his knees and then shot him two more times in the head.

Springer was sentenced to 261 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping. Springer sought to have his sentence reduced in 2013, but a judge refused.

An attorney for Jensen declined to comment.

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