ACLU Statement on Petition Asking SCOTUS to Halt Charles Rhines’ Execution

November 1, 2019 4:30 pm

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PIERRE, S.D. — The legal team defending Charles Rhines — who is scheduled to be executed in South Dakota next week — filed a petition for certiorari today. The petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court to order a district court to hear new evidence of some jurors’ anti-gay bias. Rhines was sentenced to death in 1993 despite concerning evidence that his sexual orientation may have played a role in that sentence.

Multiple jurors confirmed that Rhines’ sexual orientation was discussed at length during sentencing deliberations. One juror stated that Rhines “shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.” Another recalled a juror commenting that “if he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted for [life without parole].” A third juror confirmed that “[t]here was lots of discussion of homosexuality. There was a lot of disgust.”

Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, issued the following statement:

“Anti-gay bias played an undeniable role in Charles Rhines’ death sentence. This is irrevocably at odds with our Constitution and values. As Chief Justice Roberts has written, ‘[o]ur law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.’ The Court must make sure the new evidence of anti-gay prejudice is heard on the merits before Mr. Rhines is executed.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear Rhines’ appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take Rhines’ case in 2018 and again in 2019. Late yesterday, a federal and state court both denied outstanding appeals.

More information and case docs are here:

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