Rhines v. Young

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Status: Open
Court:
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct, Fair Courts Project

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National LGBT Bar Association filed an amicus brief urging the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the appeal of Charles Rhines, a gay man on death row in South Dakota.

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Charles Rhines is a gay man on death row in South Dakota. New evidence shows that some of the jurors who sentenced him to death “knew that he was a homosexual and thought he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison” and thought that “if he’s gay we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted for [life in prison].” The jury’s anti-gay bias deprived him of his rights to a fair trial and due process under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The brief of the amici documents America’s long and painful history of discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, which persisted at the time of trial and continues in the present day.

In 2017, in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states must consider evidence that jurors relied on racial stereotypes or animus to convict a defendant in a non-capital case. Attorneys for Mr. Rhines argue that since the principles underlying Peña-Rodriguez apply to anti-gay prejudice, the Eighth Circuit should allow Mr. Rhines the opportunity to present evidence that anti-gay bias was a factor in some jurors’ decisions to sentence him to death. The need for review is especially compelling because the anti-gay bias in Mr. Rhines’s case may have made the difference between life and death.