South Dakota execution waits for Supreme Court action

Elias Hubbard
November 6, 2019

A convicted killer who fatally stabbed a former co-worker during a 1992 burglary used his last words Monday to speak directly to the parents of his victim, saying he forgave them "for your anger and hatred towards me".

Peggy said she feels her son beside her all the time, and thinks about what he would have accomplished in life, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Charles Russell Rhines brushed off a plea for mercy from 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in the 1992 slaying at a Rapid City doughnut shop. Rhines had been fired a few weeks earlier.

The execution, originally scheduled to be carried out at 1:30 p.m. CDT, was delayed for hours while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in a last-minute, eventually denying all three of Rhines' appeals.

The South Dakota attorney general's office, however, said that the jury chose to impose the death penalty after hearing a recording of Rhines' confession, and not because of his sexual orientation.

Charles Rhines, 63, whose lawyers argued that his death sentence was tainted by anti-gay bias toward him on the part of jurors, was pronounced dead at 7.39pm CST at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, prison spokesman Michael Winder said.

"It is very sad and profoundly unjust that the State of South Dakota today executed Charles Rhines, a gay man, without any court ever hearing the evidence of gay bias that infected the jury's decision to sentence him to death".

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said his office is in contact with the U.S. Supreme Court, waiting for decisions on two petitions.

Pentobarbital was used past year when South Dakota executed Rodney Berget, who killed a prison guard during a 2011 escape attempt. And he argued he hasn't been given access to experts to be examined for cognitive and psychiatric impairments.

Schaeffer was delivering supplies to Dig 'Em Donuts when Rhines ambushed him, stabbing him in the stomach.

Sotomayor said in a statement she wasn't sure if the state handled the matter properly, but that she nonetheless signed on to the denial of Rhines' appeal. Bleeding from his wound, Schaeffer begged to be taken to a hospital, but instead he was forced into a storeroom, tied up and stabbed to death.

The US state of South Dakota on Monday executed an inmate who said that jurors at his trial were prejudiced against him because he was gay.

Appellate lawyers also sought to stay the execution while the high court considered Rhines' request to be put to death by means of a lethal-injection protocol no longer used by South Dakota. Denny Davis, director of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said they accept Rhines' execution but hope to steer public opinion against capital punishment. They say they want to shift the culture away from the death penalty.

Rhines argued the drug, pentobarbital, isn't the "ultra-short-acting" drug he's entitled to, but a circuit judge ruled it acts as fast or faster than other drugs Rhines cited when used in lethal doses.

That third appeal prompted a response from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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