Charles Rhines was executed in South Dakota yesterday after he argued that the jury recommended the death penalty because he’s gay.
Rhines was convicted of killing Donnivan Schaeffer in 1992 during a burglary, and decades later he was executed via lethal injection.
He never expressed remorse for killing Schaeffer, and at his execution he said that he forgives the victim’s parents.
“Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred towards me,” he said. “I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred towards me.”
Two decades after he was sentenced to death for killing Schaeffer, some of the jurors in his trial came forward and said that his sexuality was one of the reasons they recommended the death penalty.
One juror said that she remembers another juror saying that prison would be “sending [Rhines] where he wants to go,” a reference to gay prison sex.
The jury also asked the judge as they were deciding between recommending life in prison or the death penalty whether Rhines would “mix with the general inmate population and whether he would have a cellmate and possible conjugal visits.
A juror said that they were worried that he would entice “young men” if he was in prison instead of being put to death, and another juror remembered “lots of discussion of homosexuality, there was a lot of disgust.”
“A decision to sentence a person to death because he is gay violates the Sixth Amendment no less than a decision to sentence him to death because he is black,” said David Cole, national legal director for the ACLU.
The South Dakota Attorney General’s office says that, no matter what jurors are saying decades after the trial, the death penalty was appropriate in this case.
“Rhines locked Donnivan’s head between his knees and pounded a hunting knife into the base of Donnivan’s skull, partially severing his brain stem,” Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg said, adding that Rhines ate French fries right after the murder.