Court Hawk
Charles Rhines Executed in South Dakota
CEO Magazine

South Dakota Man Executed After Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Gay Bias Appeal

At 7:30 pm on November 4, Charles Rhines was pronounced dead after receiving a lethal ejection as part of his execution for the burglary and murder of a co-worker in 1992. Rhines was convicted of stabbing 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer at Dig ‘Em Donuts in Rapid City, SD on March 8 approximately one week after Rhines had quit.

Attorney’s Appeal Anti-Gay Bias

Rhines’ execution was originally scheduled for earlier in the afternoon but was delayed due to his attorney filing three separate applications for a stay.

Lawyers asked the Supreme Court to review evidence that jurors knew about their client’s sexual orientation and believed he would enjoy a life sentence in jail with other men if he wasn’t given the death penalty. Rhines’ attorneys felt that his being gay contributed to an anti-gay bias ruling.

Shawn Nolan, who oversaw Rhines’ defense team at the Federal Community Defender Office, was disappointed that the Supreme Court dismissed the 11th-hour petitions to stay his execution.

“It is very sad and profoundly unjust that the state of South Dakota today executed Charles Rhines, a gay man, without any court ever hearing the evidence of gay bias that infected the jury’s decision to sentence him to death.”

Donnivan Schaeffer Tied Up and Stabbed

On March 8, 1992, Charles Rhines ambushed Donnivan Schaeffer after he interrupted Rhines robbing the Dig ‘Em Donuts shop in Rapid City, SD. Rhines snuck up behind Scheaffer and quickly stabbed him in the back and abdomen.

As Schaeffer slowly bled out, he begged for an ambulance and promised Rhines that he would not tell anyone what had happened. Ignoring Schaeffer’s plea for help, Rhines forced him into the storeroom and tied him up. He then proceeded to plunge a knife into the back of Schaeffer’s skull, killing him instantly.

Rhines Offered Forgiveness With Last Words

Donnivan’s parents showed up for Rhines’ execution as a way to honor and remember their son. Suspecting that his victim’s parents would be present for his execution, Rhines directed his last words toward the grieving couple.

“Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred toward me,” Rhines said. “I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred toward me. Thanks to my team. I love you all, goodbye. Let’s go. That’s all I have to say. Goodbye.”

Ed and Peggy made it clear to reporters that they didn’t care to talk about Rhines. They merely wanted to remember the joy their son brought to their lives.

“We were so blessed to have this young man in our family and in our life,” Patty Schaffer said. “Today is the day that we talk about Donnivan, the guy who loved his family, his fiancé, and his friends.”