Gay man was given the death penalty after jurors allegedly said all-male prison would be 'where he wants to go'
An American man who was convicted of murder has been given the death sentence after the jury decided he would enjoy prison due to the fact that he is gay.
Charles Rines was convicted of killing a doughnut shop worker by stabbing them to death and three jurors have since said that there was a lot of prejudice on the panel, with one apparently saying: "If he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go."
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided to reject an appeal against the death penalty, meaning that Rhines still faces execution. Understandably, the decision has been met with horror by LGBTQ+ campaigners, with lawyer Ria Tobacco Mar saying: "The court’s silence sent a deeply troubling message about the value placed on the lives of LGBT people."
Rhines stabbed Donnivan Schaeffer while robbing the shop in South Dakota in 1992. The following year, he was convicted of murder and the court heard that the jury was fully aware he was gay.
During his recent appeal, it was revealed that his sexuality was frequently discussed throughout the deliberations.
The Supreme Court paper notes: "During penalty phase deliberations, the jurors sent out a note asking whether he would be allowed to 'mix with the general inmate population,’ ‘create a group of followers or admirers,’ ‘brag about his crime to other inmates, especially new and [/] or young men . . . ,’ ‘marry or have conjugal visits,’ or ‘have a cellmate.’"
It added: "One juror stated that jurors ‘knew that [Mr. Rhines] was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.’
"A second recalled hearing an unidentified juror comment of Mr. Rhines ‘that if he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted for [life imprisonment without the possibility of parole].’
"A third confirmed that ‘there was lots of discussion of homosexuality. There was a lot of disgust. This is a farming community."
Rhines appealed against his sentence, citing a ruling last year that claimed that evidence of racial bias in the jury room would allow a judge to consider setting aside a verdict.
However, the Supreme Court has decided to not stop the execution despite the concerns about the role his sexuality played in his sentencing. It does not give a reason as to why it rejected the appeal.
Ms Tobacco Mar wrote in the New York Times: "Some members of the jury thought life in prison without parole would be fun for Mr Rhines.
"So they decided to sentence him to death."
The lawyer compared his case to a different case in which the jury was racially biased in their decision.
"The same rule should apply when anti-LGBT prejudice taints jurors decision-making," she added.
"To be sure, the history of racism in America is unique and demands unique safeguards. But that does not make anti-LGBT discrimination any less objectionable, particularly when it may have made the difference between life and death.
"[The court] should take the next opportunity to correct this mistake and recognise that prejudice against people who are LGBT should play no role in America’s criminal justice system.
"However, that will probably come too late for Mr Rhines."
While Rhines' crim is undoubtedly disgusting in its own right, the thought process behind his sentence is shocking and shows that, despite what we may believe, society still hasn't reached equality when it comes to how we treat those in the LGBTQ+ community.