KELOLAND investigation, cruel and unusual punishment topics at SD Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Tuesday marks the second day of oral hearings in the October term of the South Dakota Supreme Court. The state’s highest court will hear cases through Wednesday at the University of South Dakota School of Law.

Graff v. Children’s Care Hospital and School

On Tuesday, the court will hear a case about Ben Graff. This is a story KELOLAND Investigates has followed extensively.

A Family’s Fight Against Dangerous Restraints

A Family’s Fight Against Dangerous Restraints

A Sioux Falls family says the repeated use of dangerous restraints on their son with developmental disabilities had lasting affects on both his physical and emotional health and are now suing the organization that runs the facility.

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As KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke reported: “Imagine being held face down 137 times, sometimes for more than one hour at a time by caregivers, over the course of six months and you had no idea what you’d done to deserve such treatment.

That’s what a KELOLAND family says happened to their son with developmental disabilities at Children’s Care Hospital and School, which is now LifeScape.”

After a three-week jury trial, the jury ruled in favor of CCHS. In addition, CCHS asked for a reimbursement for the costs related to the trial and was awarded partial costs.

Graff’s family has appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

One part specifically the family is asking the court to look at is the exclusion of Department of Health surveys that showed any deficiencies at the facility. The court decided they weren’t relevant to the case and couldn’t be used in the trial.

What the court needs to decide

Both sides of this case have asked for the court to figure out a few issues. Graff and his family want the following issues resolved:

  1. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion, or otherwise erred, when it excluded the Department of Health surveys from evidence.
  2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by taxing partial costs and disbursements against Ben’s parents.

CCHS, now Lifescape, wants the court to resolve these issues:

  1. Whether the circuit court erred when it denied CCHS’s motion for summary judgment based on the statute of repose.
  2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion when it instructed the jury that various statutes pertaining to developmentally disabled individuals applied to Ben’s claims.
  3. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by awarding a partial amount, rather than the full amount, of costs and disbursements against Ben’s parents.

State v. Quevedo

Another case the Supreme Court will hear involves an appeal of a murder sentencing.

Here’s the background on the case:

On the early morning of January 18, 2017, Kasie Lord was killed during a robbery at a Rapid City convenience store.

Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said at the time the female clerk was stabbed to death outside Loaf ‘N Jug, 1627 Mt. Rushmore Road.

17-year-old Carlos Quevedo pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 90 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 2062.

Quevedo and his friend Cody Grady were trying to steal a case of beer from the gas station.

According to court records, the two spent the night before ingesting cold medicine, alcohol and marijuana.

Earlier in the night, they robbed another convenience store to get alcohol. They also were breaking into cars. That’s where Quevedo got the knife.

After he stabbed Lord, Quevedo ran away. He told officers he had blacked out and had no memory of the stabbing.

A grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree robbery. Ultimately, Quevedo accepted a plea agreement to second-degree murder.

At sentencing, he was 17.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide offenses violate the 8th amendment of the Constitution.

In addition, South Dakota passed a law to prohibit life in prison without the possibility of parole for defendants under the age of 18.

What the court needs to decide

Quevedo’s legal team is appealing the sentence and wants the court to figure out two issues:

  1. Whether the circuit court violated the Eight Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment by imposing a 90-year sentence for a juvenile offender guilty of a homicide offense.
  2. Whether the circuit court’s imposition of a 90-year sentence was grossly disproportionate to the offense of second-degree murder in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.