Is Criminal Being Sentenced to Death Because of Sexuality?

Jurors Thought Inmate Might “Enjoy” All-male Prison Life

by Sebastian Fortino
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File under: what the actual f*ck? Charles Rhines is no saint. He killed a young man in cold blood in 1992. The crime was one without remorse. He used a key to gain access to a doughnut shop in Rapid City, South Dakota from which he had been fired. The intention was to rob. When he found 22-year old Donnivan Schaeffer the intent changed to murder.

Initially, he stabbed the young employee in the abdomen. As Schaeffer pleaded for his life, Rhines stabbed him in the base of his skull. A few years later, Rhines was sentenced to death. In the ensuing years, it has been suggested that his sexuality brought jurors to decide upon the death penalty.

Aside from what you believe regarding capital punishment, Rhines and others believe he was given the ultimate sentence because of his sexuality. Rhines identifies as gay. Jurors thought he might “enjoy” the all-male environment of a prison. According to a story which recently ran in the Miami Herald:

One juror was quoted as saying that putting a gay man in prison would be “sending him where he wants to go.”

We live in a country which has determined racial bias can overturn convictions which were delivered through a prejudiced jury. This was determined in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado in 2017. Can the same be said of gender or sexual identity bias?

However, in this case the Supreme Court has declined to hear his case. On the one hand, we have a gruesome murder, and the life of a young person ended before it really began. On the other hand, we have recorded bias daring to suggest a life behind bars might be pleasurable for the accused.

Has justice been served? You might argue, if you are in favor of the death penalty, that having to go through due process would be a huge waste of time, money, and for survivors of the victim, emotional trauma all over again. You might argue, whether or not you are in favor of capital punishment, that to honor due process it is necessary to revist the trial and all it entails. You might argue, end the death penalty, release mild offenders, and spend momey instead on studying criminal behavior so we can recognize impending violence and criminality beforehand.  

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and pinions on the Facebook link to this story.


Sebastian Fortino