With South Dakota's first execution in 59 years scheduled for 10 p.m. CDT, there has been little activity outside the South Dakota State Penitentiary where the execution will occur.
Elijah Page is slated to die by lethal injection for the March 2000 murder of Chester Poage in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Page has withdrawn his appeals of his sentence, which was imposed after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the crime.
A handful of protesters showed up around 8 a.m. outside the prison. At least at the outset, they were outnumbered by reporters. Another nearby site set up for proponents of the death penalty was empty. Vigils and services were scheduled at various churches throughout the state for the hours preceding the execution.
A press release from the South Dakota Department of Corrections indicated the execution was scheduled for 10 p.m. to allow Page a full day to visit with family and friends and allow him the opportunity to consult with his lawyer. Observers reported an unidentified man and woman visited Page and that Page laughed and joked with them during the visit.
Although Page withdrew further legal challenges to his sentence, he can exercise those rights until the moment of execution, thereby halting it. The execution could also be stopped if South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds commutes Page's sentence. Rounds has previously indicated that he is not inclined to intervene.
Under South Dakota law, the warden is required to invite the South Dakota attorney general, the trial judge, and the state's attorney and sheriff of the county where the crime was committed to attend the execution. In addition, the warden must select no more than 10 "reputable adult citizens," including at least one member of the news media" to witness the execution. Page can request that up to two clergy and up to five relatives or friends be allowed to attend. Witnesses are required to sign a certificate along with the warden and other officials present certifying that the execution took place. That certificate must be filed with the sentencing court within 10 days of the execution.
Three other men are on death row in South Dakota including Briley Piper, who also pleaded guilty to Poage's murder. All are currently pursuing legal challenges.