Gay Man Given the Death Penalty Because Jurors Believed he Would Have Enjoyed Prison

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Last night, Charles Rhines, a South Dakota gay man, was put to death by lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final motion that would have allowed Rhines to bring new evidence to the Court showing that antigay bias may have motivated the jury to sentence him to death.

Recently, it was discovered that jurors suggested that sentencing Mr. Rhines to life in prison with other men would be “sending him where he wants to go.”

Following the news of Rhines’s tragic execution, Ethan Rice, Lambda Legal Fair Courts Project Senior Attorney, made the following statement: “No person in our society should be put to death. Cases where bias is a factor in jury decision-making show exactly why the death penalty is unjust and should not be maintained in our society.

“Mr. Rhines’s case represents one of the most extreme forms anti-LGBT bias can take. It’s evident that the he was sentenced to death because he was a gay man. We are deeply troubled that the court chose not to review his case today when it is clear that the constitutional right to a fair trial must include whether jury deliberations involved bias.”

“If our legal system allows antigay bias in jury deliberations, the integrity of our entire court system is undermined. The death penalty is an irreversible and harsh misuse of government power. When it is applied in a biased manner, courts should take every possible opportunity to correct that wrong. In this case, no court has ever reviewed the evidence of antigay bias that occurred during jury deliberations in Mr. Rhines’s sentencing.”

According to NBC News: Rhines, a high school dropout, was found guilty of murdering Donnivan Schaeffer, 22, an employee at Dig ‘Em Donuts in Rapid City, during a burglary of the doughnut shop on March 8, 1992, weeks after Rhines had quit working there.

Schaeffer was found stabbed to death inside the shop, his hands bound, with about $3,000 in cash and checks missing, according to court documents in the case. A jury sentenced Rhines to death for the killing in January 1993, four days after convicting him.


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