Appeals Court Upholds Rhines Conviction & Death Sentence


A federal appeals court has dealt another legal blow to a convicted murderer who’s spent the last 25-years on South Dakota’s death row.  On Friday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Charles Rhines’ conviction and death penalty for the 1992 murder of donut shop employee Donnivan Schaeffer.  Rhines can still file more appeals in the case.  The ACLU is now getting involved, saying jurors were biased against Rhines because he’s gay.

Dig ‘Em Donuts turned into a grisly murder scene when Charles Rhines stabbed Donnivan Schaeffer to death back in 1992.  Shaeffer had walked-in on on Rhines, who broke into the shop to steal money.

A Pennington County Jury found Rhines guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death by lethal injection.  But the ACLU says new evidence, based upon interviews with jurors shows some of them had an anti-gay bias against Rhines that influenced their decision.

According to court filings, one juror said the jury knew Rhines “was a homosexual and that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.”

The ACLU says another juror said, “There was lots of discussion of homosexuality.  There was a lot of disgust.  This is a farming community.”

While Friday’s ruling upholding Rhines’ death sentence does not directly address the allegations of juror bias, Attorney General Marty Jackley says the ACLU will have a tough case to prove since the court of appeals says Rhines’ sentence is constitutional.

Jackley will seek a warrant of execution once Rhines exhausts all of his appeals.  Jackley says that means Rhines could be put to death late this year, or sometime next year. 

You can read the ACLU’s entire court filing by clicking here

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