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Supreme Court orders resentencing in manslaughter case

August 5, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has ordered a Yankton man be resentenced for manslaughter.

Jameson Mitchell pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Lucas Smith outside a Yankton bar in April of 2019. The two had fought inside the bar and then were ejected through different doors. The 22-year-old Mitchell retrieved a handgun from his apartment and returned to the alley outside the bar. Mitchell argued the gun was for his protection.

Surveillance video showed Smith charging at Mitchell, shouting for Mitchell to shoot him.

In an agreement with prosecutors Mitchell pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Circuit Judge Cheryle Gering sentenced Mitchell to 124 years in prison, more than twice the amount of time the state recommended.

In writing for the court in its decision released Thursday, Justice Mark Salter said the circuit court “effectively treated Mitchell as solely responsible for Smith’s killing without considering Smith’s own criminal conduct.”

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Salter noted that the shooting was a “gravely serious offense” and that the justices understood the circuit court’s inclination to impose a stern sentence.

“However, in order to accurately assess the nature of Mitchell’s conduct, the court must consider the fact that he was reacting to a threat posed by Smith’s own assaultive conduct,” the justice wrote.

The Supreme Court vacated the sentenced and sent the case back to the lower court for sentencing.