The US Supreme Court is to decide whether to review the case of a gay man who was sentenced to death over a fatal stabbing because the jury was allegedly “homophobic.”
Charles Rhines was sentenced to death by a jury in 1993, after he bound and stabbed a man to death while robbing a doughnut shop in South Dakota.
However, Rhines’ lawyers have petitioned for a reduction in his sentence to life without parole due to alleged homophobia shown by the jury during the sentencing, claiming the jurors thought he would “enjoy prison.”
Rhines has asked the high court to review his case because of alleged evidence showing at least one juror relied on anti-gay stereotypes to sentence him, according to his petition.
The US Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on Thursday if it will review Rhines’ case.
During Rhines’ sentencing, the jurors asked the sentencing judge a series of questions, including whether Rhines would be allowed to “mix with the general inmate population” or “brag about his crime to other inmates, especially new and or young men.”
The jurors also asked whether Rhines would be allowed to “marry or have conjugal visits” or “have a cellmate.”
In their petition to the South Dakota Supreme Court, Rhines’ lawyers say that since the original trial, three jurors have come forward to state that the jury sentenced the now 60-year-old to death based on his sexual orientation.
One juror stated that several jurors “knew that [Rhines] was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.”
Another juror recounted one fellow juror saying during the sentencing: “If he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go.”
The second juror added: “One juror made a joke that Rhines might enjoy a life in prison where he would be among so many men.”
The three jurors also stated that Rhines’ sexual orientation was frequently discussed during the sentencing.
“There was lots of discussion of homosexuality. There was a lot of disgust,” the petition states.
In their response to the petition, the representatives for the state of South Dakota deny the legitimacy of the jurors’ statements.