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Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

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South Dakota Supreme Court Affirms Murder Conviction of Eugene Edward Martin


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :     Friday, February 13, 2015
CONTACT: Sara Rabern,  (605) 773-3215 

South Dakota Supreme Court Affirms Murder Conviction of Eugene Edward Martin

PIERRE, S.D.  – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the South Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed the first degree murder conviction of Eugene Edward Martin for the murder of Robert Thunderhawk.

“We are pleased that the conviction and sentence in this case has been upheld,” said Jackley. “The jury carefully considered the facts and its decision has been reaffirmed by the South Dakota Supreme Court, reassuring that justice has been served.”

In May 2012, Martin was living at a campsite in an undeveloped area of Sioux Falls. Martin became angry at Thunderhawk over a girlfriend comment. Martin began striking Martin with his fists and ultimately with shovels.

Martin appealed his conviction on the grounds that the circuit court erroneously admitted into evidence a recording of the 911 call and allowed two officers to testify about out-of-court statements made by codefendant. Martin also argued that there was insufficient evidence of premeditation to sustain the jury’s guilty verdict. 

The Court stated that hearsay is generally not admissible, however, “courts have discretion to allow an ordinarily inadmissible inquiry when adversary ‘opens the door’ to that line of inquiry.” An examination of the trial transcript revealed that Martin’s defense counsel opened the door for this type of testimony. The Court further stated that Martin’s defense counsel clearly raised the issue of what information was relayed to the Officer.

In the argument of insufficient evidence of premeditation, the Court said that proof of premeditation may be inferred. “1) the use of a lethal weapon; 2) the manner and nature of the killing; 3) the defendant’s actions before and after the murder; and 4) whether there was provocation,” State v. Wright. The Court further stated that a rational jury could infer that Martin used a shovel to inflict death or bodily harm to his victim. Second, a rational jury could infer premeditation from the nature of the killing because it took place in many phases, including using his fists and using two different shovels to continue the beating. Third, a rational jury could infer premeditation from Martin’s actions before and after the murder, including Martin removing his clothing before the beating with the shovel to avoid transfer of physical evidence. Lastly, Martin provoked his victim.