Sunday, November 17, 2013

State v. Lyerla case brief

State v. Lyerla case brief summary
424 N.W.2d 908 (1988)

Defendant sought review of a judgment from the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Jackson County (South Dakota), which convicted defendant of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder.

While driving on a highway, defendant fired three shots at a pickup truck carrying three teenage girls. One of the girls was killed. The trial court convicted defendant of second degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder.

  • On appeal, defendant contended that as a result of the prosecution's improper release of the pickup truck to the dead girl's family, exculpatory evidence was irretrievably lost. 
  • Defendant also contended that it was a legal impossibility to attempt to commit murder in the second degree. 
  • The court affirmed the second-degree murder conviction and reversed the attempted second-degree murder convictions. 
  • The court held that: 
  • (1) although the prosecutor violated state law in authorizing the release of the pickup truck, the violation did not automatically vitiate the conviction of second-degree murder; 
  • (2) although not identical to the lost evidence, comparable evidence was available for defendant to fully assert his defense; 
  • (3) attempted second-degree murder did not exist in South Dakota; and 
  • (4) to commit murder one needed not intend to take a life, but to be guilty of an attempt to murder, one had to so intend.

The court affirmed defendant's conviction of second-degree murder and reversed defendant's conviction of two counts of attempted second-degree murder.

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