South Dakota Attorney General Quotes Martin Luther King To Express Support For Death Penalty


South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley pulled a quote from an unlikely source this week to emphasize his support for capital punishment.

Responding to the Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal from death row inmate Charles Rhines, Jackley cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” in applauding the decision.

“The United States Supreme Court’s order today affirms that South Dakota has taken proper precautions in drafting and implementing its death penalty statutes to assure that they meet constitutional requirements. Donnivan Schaeffer’s family has waited 22 years in their search for justice. In the wake of yesterday’s day of remembrance, it is well to recall what Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: ‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”

It was strange, as the Argus Leader’s David Montgomery noted, because King was an avowed opponent to the death penalty.

“I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included,” King once said. “Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

Rhines is on death row for fatally stabbing 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in a 1992 burglary of a Rapid City, S.D. donut shop.


Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at