Charles Rhines was executed yesterday after a long battle of appeals.
In 1992, Rhines was caught attempting a burglary of a doughnut shop in Rapid City by 22-year-old employee Donnivan Schaeffer. Rhines ended up stabbing Schaeffer in the abdomen and back before stabbing him in the skull. Charles Rhines was then convicted in 1993 for the murder and sentenced to death. That death sentence was then enacted yesterday.
But why are we talking about Rhines here on Instinct Magazine? Well, Rhines and his defense team fought for decades to overturn his sentence. The reason being, he was faced with a homophobic jury.
As Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote for the MiamiHerald:
“Evidence of the effect of Rhines’ sexuality on the panel’s reasoning abounds. Jurors sent the judge a note asking if he would be housed in general population, if he might ‘brag’ to ‘young men’ about his crime, if he might ever marry or have conjugal visits, if he would have a cellmate. As if that weren’t enough, several jurors later issued sworn declarations affirming how homophobia warped their deliberations.”
One juror was quoted as saying that putting a gay man in prison would be ‘sending him where he wants to go.’ Another quoted a fellow juror as saying Rhines ‘shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.’ A third reported that, ‘There was a lot of disgust’ in the jury room. ‘This is a farming community.’”
Despite the initial evidence against the jury, the Supreme Court decided to pass on hearing the case. Keep in mind, Rhines’ case appeared to be pretty open and shut. But, the real question is if he was given a fair trial or one with a biased jury. Despite two years of court battles surrounding the question, Charles Rhines eventually ran out of appeals to play. As thus, he was executed via lethal injection.
“I am hopeful that this day is an opportunity for the family to move forward and now, that this phase is over, they can continue to heal,” South Dakota Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg said in a statement.
Just before his execution, Rhines expressed his hope for the victim’s family to get past their anger towards him and the murder.
“Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred towards me,” he said, according to the Rapid City Journal newspaper. “I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred towards me.”
Despite those words Schaeffer’s fiancé of the time, Sheila Jackson, said that the execution “closes the books on Rhines,” but the Schaeffer family will “forever feel the pain and the emotions that Rhines caused us.”