Updated: 10:41 AM ET, Mon April 15, 2019
The Supreme Court has again rejected a gay death row inmate’s appeal that claims jurors in South Dakota were biased against him due to his sexual orientation.
On Monday, the justices did not comment in leaving the death sentence in effect for Charles Rhines.
In 1992 Rhines was convicted for the death of a doughnut shop employee in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Rhines’ lawyers argued in his favor that the Supreme Court’s opinion should be extended to include evidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Anti-gay bias, if left unaddressed, risks systemic harm to the justice system, and in particular, capital jury sentencing,” they told the justices in court briefs.
Attorney General of South Dakota, Jason R. Ravnsborg, said the lower courts were right to hold and that the challenge was procedurally barred in part because Rhines has to wait so long to make his claims.
Ravnsborg pointed out the brutality of the crime that Rhines endured, at which his brain stem was partially severed and questioned the veracity of the jurors’ affidavits.
Even if the claims weren’t procedurally barred, he argued to the justices in briefs that the court should not expand its precedent: “Sexual orientation does not implicate the same unique historical, constitutional and institutional concerns as race.”
“Rhines has now eluded justice for longer than he allowed Donnivan Schaeffer to live his life; there is no justice in further delaying the imposition of Rhines’ deserved death sentence,” he added.
ACLU lawyers urged the court to step in and extend its precedent regarding Rhines’ case.
“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,” wrote David D. Cole, the ACLU’s national legal director.