SD Supreme Court turns back death row inmate's motion to stay execution

FSA South Dakota SD brief

The South Dakota Supreme Court denied Charles Russell Rhines’ motion to stay his execution and also has affirmed the dismissal of his challenge to the written policy of the South Dakota Department of Corrections.

Rhines, 63, was convicted in 1993 for brutally murdering 22 year-old Donnivan Schaeffer during a burglary of a Rapid City donut shop on March 8, 1992. Rhines was not challenging the constitutionality of his death sentence or the death penalty itself but had claimed that the written policy of the South Dakota Department of Corrections regarding executing a condemned inmate was invalid because it did not fit within the rule-making requirements of South Dakota’s Administrative Procedure Act.

“These decisions by the South Dakota Supreme Court brings us two steps closer to both justice and closure for the family of Donnivan Schaeffer,” said South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg in a statement. “Donnivan’s life was savagely ended by Charles Rhines, who has now been on death row for five years more than Donnivan lived. We continue to seek justice for Donnivan. It is time for this process to be over so the family can heal.”

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union had urged Gov. Kristi Noem to grant clemency to Rhines because he had claimed jurors were biased against him because he’s gay, but Noem allowed the execution process to continue. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice denied appeals it had heard from Rhines that sexual orientation bias affected his conviction for murder.

Ravnsborg's office also announced late Friday that the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals had dismissed Rhines' appeal to meet with mental health experts for the purposes of seeking clemency.


Rhines has been scheduled to be executed during the week of Nov. 3-9. Rhines is slated to be the fifth South Dakotan executed since 2007 after the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1979.

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