Timothy Caffrey Case

I just saw this case posted through K@W. It hits sort of close to home where I grew up and found it an interesting story and case for the Native American adoptee community. Take a look. GS

“We understand that Timothy’s life in Martin was very difficult, and that his adoptive father was alcoholic and abusive. We also learned that the court-hired psychiatrist testified that Timothy suffered a psychosis as a result of the trauma of his abuse and did not intend to kill his stepfather.”



Timothy Caffery was an infant when he had the misfortune of being
adopted by a politically powerful man named Bill Caffery and his wife
Olive. Bill Caffery was an abusive adoptive father and an alcoholic. It
was public knowledge that he frequently took his alcoholic rages out on
Timothy. Unfortunately, due to his political position and power in the
community most people were afraid to report him for the abuse and others
were simply unaware of who they should report him to. You see, Bill
Caffery was the Director of Social Services; he was the final voice in
deciding who got to keep their family assistance and which families were
able to keep their children. Therefore, he was allowed to viciously
abuse Timothy without consequence or restraint. One boarder in the
Caffery home spoke of hearing Bill beating the child for hours on end,
the beatings continued long after the child had stopped screaming. This
story took another tragic turn when Timothy became an adolescent, after
years of both physical and mental abuse Timothy finally fought back and
ended up killing his abusive adoptive father, he was 17 years old. He
was arrested and tried as an adult by Bill Caffery’s good friend and
frequent lunch partner, State Attorney Larry Long. During his trial the
minister’s wife came in to testify about the severity of the abuse that
Timothy had endured throughout his life. A psychiatrist came in to
testify that Timothy was not a violent person, that he was suffering
from borderline psychosis in relation to years of abuse. He also stated
that he probably did not truly intend to kill his adoptive father only
end the abuse. Larry Long submitted the case with a charge of Murder
One, but the judge seeing that this was clearly not a true
representation of the facts changed the charge to manslaughter, which
should have resulted in a corresponding change in allowable sentence.
Unfortunately, it did not. Timothy Caffery was sentenced to life without
parole, he has already served 27 years of that sentence.

The reason for the severity of the sentence was the structure of laws
governing American Indian people. In 1885 the federal government changed
the laws related to American Indians for particular crimes, including
murder, manslaughter, accidental death etc. This ruling placed these
cases under the jurisdiction of the federal courts, subject to federal
sentencing rules. In the 1980’s the federal government also changed its
sentencing structure in a way that eliminated parole. These two laws
have created a vacuum where American Indian people often receive
sentences that are two to three times longer than they would have been
had these cases been under the jurisdiction of the state or local courts
and sentencing structures. This system also denies them access to parole
or time off for good behavior, making an already unjust and unequal
system even worse. Most accidental death and manslaughter cases result
in less then ten years of incarceration, but due to the system and to
other racial factors Timothy Caffery remains in jail. His case has twice
been unanimously recommended for a commutation of sentence, by the
parole board of the state of South Dakota and is currently awaiting the
signature of Governor Michael Rounds. Due to the requirement governing
federal prisoners the Governor must sign the petition to commute the
sentence. All records indicate that Timothy has been a model prisoner
for his entire stay at the SD Prison and that he does not pose any
perceived threat to society. Several service organizations and
individuals have come forward and offered emotional, financial, and
communal support for his re-entry into society and he already has a job
waiting for him. The first time the petition for commutation of sentence
was placed before the governor he refused to sign it. It is believed
that Larry Long, Bill Caffery’s former friend, has had some influence
over the Governor’s denial. Larry Long is now the Attorney General of
the state of South Dakota, his previous unfair treatment of Timothy has
been given greater reach in this position, and his influence should not
prevent justice being served.


2 Comments on “Timothy Caffrey Case

  1. Can’t Larry Long be stopped from exerting any influence over this case? He had to know he was wrong for taking he side of his friend, the abuser. No wonder I have disdain for some politicians!

  2. This story makes me ill. How do people turn their back on a child being mistreated, how? Makes Social Services a real joke, doesn’t it?

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