Attorneys argue over drug planned for Charles Rhines’s execution


A convicted murderer’s execution is moving forward, for now, despite lengthy arguments in court to halt it. The state of South Dakota is scheduled to execute Charles Rhines next week. On Tuesday, a court hearing focused on the type of drug the state wants to use, and whether or not it violates Rhines’s legal right to have a say in his death. Rhines’s legal team asked the judge to make a decision today, which the judge denied.

In 1993, a jury convicted Rhines for the murder of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer during a burglary of a Rapid City donut shop. 26 years later, Rhines is back in court. His attorney says the reason is not to argue his execution, but to have a say in how the state executes him. Daniel Fritz said Rhines has the right to choose which drug the state uses to execute him. Fritz said Rhines has forfeited almost every freedom and right he ever had by his own actions, but says he still has a right to a humane execution. He said that means using an ultra short-acting barbiturate. He says pentobarbital, the drug the state wants to use, is only a medium-acting barbiturate.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Swedlund denied that claim, and said pentobarbital is ultra short-acting..and argued Rhines has known since 2011 that pentobarbital would be a possibility. Swedlund also noted the lengthy number of appeals Rhines has made over the years. He says Rhines had ample opportunity to raise concerns about how the state wants to execute him, but did not raise the issue until right before his execution.

Rhines’s attorneys called a witness, Dr. Craig Stevens. Stevens is a pharmacology professor at Oklahoma State University. He testified about the effectiveness on barbiturates and how much time it takes each drug in question to work. There was some disagreement about Stevens expertise in this matter, because he has Ph.D. and is not a medical doctor.

You can take a closer look at today’s arguments and learn more about the drugs in question in a Original Report.

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