Regarding Rounds and Ramos — UPDATED

You need to see the Rapid City Journal’s stories for the big picture, but basically Gov. Mike Rounds commuted the life sentence of a murderer, Jack Ramos, and then found out there is strong, strong disagreement by the victim’s daughter, the victim’s sister and the killer’s ex-wife. The matter supposedly sat on Rounds’ desk for two years. He now says his staff couldn’t locate any of the three women. The deed is done, however: Rounds can’t rescind the commutation. Ramos could be eligible for parole in 2013. Whether Ramos gets out, is now up to the state board of pardons and paroles. Rounds says he’ll write a letter to the parole board opposing the release of Ramos. What a final act as the curtain comes down on his time as governor. The only thing crazier in all of this is why the parole board in the first place recommended to Rounds that he commute the sentence. We are all human, sometimes to a fault.

UPDATE: Rounds’ office just distributed a grid of other commutations and clemency grants he made. They include two more lifers who saw their sentences commuted. One is Timothy Caffrey who received life for first-degree manslaughter in Bennett County on June 21, 1983. The other is Jesse Stuck, who was sentenced to life for aggravated assault and being a habitual offender in Beadle County on May 21, 1987. Both now join Ramos in becoming eligible for parole.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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