Capital Punishment in South Dakota: an Anthropological Viewpoint

Maya Parry, University of South Dakota


The death penalty, or capital punishment, is a provocative and thought evoking point of discussion within American culture on more than one level: national, regional, and state. The purpose of this paper is to examine the critical questions that surround capital punishment, such as the attitudes and legislative changes, within South Dakota. I plan to address the following questions: Has South Dakota been consistent in their stance on capital punishment? If not, how has this reflected social beliefs within the state? How can South Dakota's view and utilization of capital punishment compare to national data on capital punishment? How has the idea of crimes punishable by death changed over time? In addition, this research will seek to understand and compare how said attitudes and legislation correlate to other phenomena in the United States. My goal is to examine the perceptions of crimes punishable by death within South Dakota anthropologically and historically. I will call upon historical records from within the state as well as relevant records from outside of it, such as public execution records from the Death Penalty Information Center, and analyze theories and survey data about capital punishment. Through this research I will gain a better understanding of the perception of death as it relates to crime and punishment.