An appellate panel voted two to one on Sept. 7 to deny the certificate of appealability to a gay death-row prisoner who maintained that jury's ruling that sentenced him to death was partially motivated by anti-LGBT bias.
Attorneys for Charles Rhines, who was sentenced to death in South Dakota, said that some jury members later reported that, during deliberations, were concerned that Rhines would not be sufficiently punished by life in prison, given a penitentiary's all-male atmosphere. But the majority judges on the U.S. Courth of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit did not accept attorneys' concerns.
In a Sept. 7 press release, one of Rhine's attorney's, Shawn Nolan, said, "The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2017, Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, applies to Mr. Rhines's case and requires that a court review his evidence of anti-gay bias before his execution can proceed. Anti-gay stereotypes and animus should have no role in our criminal justice system and certainly should never be a reason to impose a death sentence. We are gratified that one of the judges on the panel, Judge Kelly, voted to review this important issue."
He added, "Jurors who voted for death expressed a desire to prevent Mr. Rhines from serving a life sentence 'with men in prison' or enjoying 'conjugal visits' and recalled jurors expressing 'disgust' about Mr. Rhines's sexual orientation. Anti-gay bias should have no role in a capital jury's life or death decision-making.
"Mr. Rhines should be allowed to show whether anti-gay prejudice factored into the jury's decision to sentence him to death," Nolan further noted.