SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — LGBTQ legal organization Lambda Legal reacted Tuesday to the execution of Charles Rhines in South Dakota.
LGBTQ Nation reported that Rhines was convicted of killing Donnivan Schaeffer in 1992 during a burglary. He was executed on Monday.
Rhines had appealed his death sentence all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court because jurors at his trial in 1993 may have sentenced him to death because he was gay. Decades later, jurors came forward saying that Rhines being gay was a focus of the jurors.
One juror stated that the jury “knew that [Rhines] was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.” Another juror recalled a juror commenting that “if he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted for [life without parole].” A third juror confirmed that “[t]here was lots of discussion of homosexuality. There was a lot of disgust.” They had even asked if he would be allowed conjugal visits.
“No person in our society should be put to death,” said Ethan Rice, Lambda Legal Fair Courts Project senior attorney. “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.”
“Lambda Legal opposes the death penalty precisely because we deal with the legal system’s fallibility and the effects of bias on court decisions every day,” said Richard Saenz, senior attorney and the Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct strategist. We are saddened by Charles Rhines’s death, and we will continue to fight for fair courts, push for more safeguards in the legal system to preserve the courts and weed out jury bias and discrimination against LGBT people and everyone living with HIV.”
The Supreme Court denied Rhimes’ appeal in April.