DEADWOOD, S.D. -- This Old West town where Jack McCall killed gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok while he played poker in 1876 figures again in a capital punishment case in South Dakota, which may be facing its first execution in 59 years.
McCall was hanged for shooting Hickok in Saloon No. 10 -- the first recorded execution in what would become South Dakota 12 years later.
Now, Elijah Page wants to die.
Page, 24, has asked to fire his lawyer, forgo appeals, and die by lethal injection for his role in the March 13, 2000, slaying of 19-year-old Chester Poage. Page and two other men beat, stabbed, and tortured Poage in Higgins Gulch near Spearfish in the
Page, of Athens, Texas, is expected to find out at a hearing today whether the same judge who handed down his death sentence will grant his request.
Judge Warren Johnson of Deadwood had ordered a mental evaluation before considering Page's request. ``If the results show you're competent to make the decisions, I will be inclined to honor your decision," Johnson told Page at a May hearing.
Defense lawyer Mike Butler has said Page's decision to end his appeals might be equivalent to a suicide attempt.
Page's execution already is set for the week of Aug. 28 at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. The state Supreme Court has upheld his death sentence.
Johnson sentenced Page and Briley Piper, 25, of Anchorage to death in 2001 even though they pleaded guilty, saying he considered the killing vile and depraved.
The third man charged with Poage's killing, Darrell Hoadley, 26, of Lead, opted to stand trial. He was convicted and a split jury sentenced him to life in prison.
According to testimony, Hoadley said Page and Piper planned to steal a stereo, a television, and other property from Poage's mother's house in Spearfish. A prosecutor said Poage was killed so there would be no witness.
Hoadley said Piper stabbed Poage three times in the head and neck, and Page kicked Poage 30 to 40 times in the head, severed his ears, then hit him on the head with large rocks.
Hoadley said he hit Poage with two large rocks near the end of the attack, which lasted at least two hours. He said he was afraid Piper and Page would kill him if he interfered or tried to leave.
The current death penalty statute has been in place since 1979.