empty-courtroom
Spencer Weiner-Pool

A South Dakota Man May Have Been Sentenced To Death Because He's Gay

According to sworn statements, several jurors wondered if sending Charles Rhines to prison would be "sending him where he wants to go."

A South Dakota jury may have sentenced a man to death instead of life in prison because of his sexual orientation. According to several 2016 sworn statements, one juror said deliberations about Charles Rhines' sexuality played a major role in his sentencing.

“If he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go,” Frances Cersosimo who served on the jury recalled. She would not identify the juror who made the comment.

Another juror Henry Keeney said he believed Rhines deserved to die after encountering the victim, Donnivan Schaeffer in 1992 during a robbery of Rapid City doughnut shop. Keeney also said Rhines' homosexuality was the reason he didn't vote in favor of life in prison.

We also knew he was a homosexual and thought he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison,” Mr. Keeney also said in a 2016 sworn statement.

The jurors sentenced Rhines to death and he's been on death row ever since. Over the years, Rhines has had several lawyers appeal his conviction for various reason. In 2015, his new legal counsel obtained sworn statements from jurors and his appeal is now being heard by the Supreme Court on the grounds a biased jury deprived him of a fair trial.

Jury deliberations are normally secret and misconduct in jury chambers cannot be used to change a conviction. Two years ago, however, the New York Times report in the case of Peno Rodriguez v. Colorado an exception was made, stating that bringing the deliberations to light was more important than keeping them secret.

In hopes the Supreme Court doesn't take on Rhines' case, South Dakota's Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg said racial bias discrimination was more pronounced than prejudice based on sexual orientation.

"Sexual orientation is not immutable to the same extent as race,” he wrote.“No civil war has been fought over it,” he added. “No politician has ever proposed constructing a wall to keep homosexuals out of the country.”

There are a number of hurdles Rhines must face and surpass before the Supreme Court hears his case, and that's still not a guarantee things will go in his favor.

From the Web

More on Vibe

The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

USC Will Offer Free Tuition For Students From Families Making Under $80,000

USC announced a new effort to make attending the university affordable to students from middle and low-income families. The school will offer free undergrad tuition for families making less than 80,000 a year, USC president Carol L. Folt announced on Thursday (Feb. 20).

Thanks to the new policies, owning a home will not be counted in calculating the student’s tuition needs.

“We’re opening the door to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks life,” Folt said in a statement. “This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey. We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances. Investing in the talent and diversity of our student body is essential to our education mission.”

The announcement comes as USC remains embroiled in an admissions scandal that became public last year.

As for the new policy, USC will increase undergraduate aid by $30 million annually which will expand financial aid for more than 4,000 students. The new policies will be implemented for incoming students beginning in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

7.7. Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Jamaica, Cuba And Miami

A powerful earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea on Tuesday (Jan. 28) triggering temporary tsunami warnings and tremors felt as far away as South Florida. The 7.7. magnitude quake hit the waters between Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, according to the United States Geological Survey and the International Tsunami Information Center.

The quake, which struck roughly 86 miles northwest off the coast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, resulted in multiple aftershocks including a a 6.1 tremor near the Cayman Island, and a 4.4 aftershock. “Light shaking” was also reported in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

“Despite the large size of the earthquake, the fact that it occurred offshore and away from high population areas lessened its societal impact,” the USGS said. The organization described the quake as “moderate shaking” in parts of Cuba and Jamaica.

The quake comes nearly a month after a 6.4. magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico, but the USGS said that the “seismic events” were unrelated.

Continue Reading
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Black People Make Up More Than 50% Of U.S. Homeless Population, Study Finds

Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, per an Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Housing and Urban Department. According to the report, blacks account for more than 50% of the country’s homeless population, despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population.

“African Americans have remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population,” the report states. “African Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 and 52% of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children.

“In contrast, 48% of all people experiencing homelessness were white, compared with 77% of the U.S. population.” People identifying as Hispanic or Latino are bout “22% of the homeless population but only 18% of the populations overall.”

As of 2019, the U.S. homeless population swelled to 568,000, an increase of about 10,000 from the previous year. In 2019, Roughly 35,000 of those experiencing unaccompanied homelessness were under the age of 25, a 4% decrease from 2018. The number of those experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 9% between 2018 and 2019.

A staggering 52% of black families experience homelessness, compared to 35% for white families.

The goal of the report is to “demonstrate continued progress toward ending homelessness, but also a need to re-calibrate policy to make future efforts more effective and aligned with the unique needs of different communities.”

HUD, which is has been releasing the annual housing stats since 2007, shows a 3% bump in the number of those experiencing homelessness on any given night, a 16% increase in California, and a “decrease” in other states. California accounts for 53% (108,432 people) off all unsheltered homeless people in the country. Despite being only twice as large as Florida, California’s homeless population is nine times that of the Sunshine State, which came in at a distant second place with 6% (12,476 people). New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington have the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people.

Numerous variables come into play when determining the origin of the black homeless epidemic due to a longstanding system of oppression in housing, and beyond. Black families are twice as  likely to experience poverty in the U.S., compared to white families; and in spite of laws against open discrimination, black renters face overt and covert financial and racial prejudice, in addition to gentrification and the racial pay gap.

On Jan. 7, HUD unveiled a housing proposal that attempts to undue Obama-era housing mandates put in place to prevent racial discrimination. The newly-released proposal may end up further promoting racial discrimination.

Continue Reading

Top Stories