Justice in America

I have an aversion to the death penalty because far too many people seem to be sentenced to death for questionable reasons. Case in point, a South Dakota jury sentenced a man to death. The man was found guilty of murder, so he isn’t exactly an angle. However, the jury’s reasoning for issuing the death sentence calls its impartiality into question:

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not stop South Dakota from killing a man who may have been sentenced to death because he is gay.

Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.

During deliberations, the jury had often discussed the fact that Mr. Rhines was gay and there was “a lot of disgust” about it, one juror recalled in an interview, according to the court petition. Another said that jurors knew he was gay and “thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.” A third recounted hearing that if the jury did not sentence Mr. Rhines to death, “if he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go.”

I would say that the jury’s impartiality is certainly in question. There is some obvious discrimination displayed since the justification given, that a gay man would enjoy being incarcerated in a men’s prison, is absurd (if that were the case, why aren’t gay men constantly committing crimes that will result in them being sent to prison). This discriminatory attitude calls into question whether the jurors were impartial during the case or allowed their discriminatory views of gay men to color their judgement.

None of this is to say that Charles Rhines is an innocent man who would be set free. However, the jury’s apparent lack of impartiality along with the fact that it sentenced Rhines to death for an absurd reasons does, in my opinion, indicate a need to review the trial and especially the sentence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was uninterested in doing so, which means that a further review is unlikely.