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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.

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Florida Judge Clears Record Of Man Who Overslept And Missed Jury Duty

A Florida judge made headlines last week when he sentenced a man to 10 days in jail for oversleeping and missing jury duty. Now, CNN reports the judge has cleared the young man's record.

Judge John Kastrenakes found 21-year-old Deandre Somerville in contempt of court for not showing up to jury duty during a civil trial. Kastrenakes vacated the contempt of court charge and cleared Somerville's record.

The West Palm Beach resident was originally sentenced to 10 days, 150 hours of community service, a written apology of no less than 100 words and $233 in fines. Judge Kastrenakes' decision prompted swift outrage on social media as Sommerville does not have a criminal record.

The judge reportedly reduced the sentence Friday when Sommerville appeared before the court to read the letter. "Before my hearing, I walked into the courtroom a free man with no criminal record. I left a criminal in handcuffs. This was an immature decision that I made, and I paid the price for my freedom," Somerville said while reading his letter.

On Saturday the Judge said Somerville's letter was 'moving, sincere and heartfelt " and noted that he "has been totally rehabilitated."

Kastrenakes said he ordered probation because he wanted to send a message that jury duty is "is serious business deserving of attention, respect, and adherence to their oaths." However, he said Somerville is "a thoughtful and respectful young man."

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A Texas Man Robbed A Bank The Day Before His Wedding To Pay For The Ring

A Texas man has been charged with aggravated robbery for robbing a bank the day before his wedding to pay for the ring and venue.

According to reports, Heath Edward Bumpus approached a bank teller at Citizens State Bank on Saturday (Oct. 4) and said he had a weapon and demanded money, which he left with.

“He basically stated that he was getting married tomorrow so he didn’t have enough money for a wedding ring that he wanted to buy and he needed to pay for the wedding venue,” Sheriff Woody Wallace said.

After learning of the robbery, Wallace posted Bumpus' photo on Trinity County Sherriff’s Facebook page in hopes the public would assist with his capture. In an ironic turn of events, Bumpus' fiancee saw the photo, called him and convinced him to turn himself into authorities.

“His fiancée, who he was supposed to marry tomorrow, was able to get in touch with him on the phone when she saw our post on Facebook. She knew it was him. She contacted him and asked him if he robbed a bank. She convinced him that she knew it was him. His picture was all on Facebook. He needed to turn himself in,” said Wallace in a video posted to his Facebook page.

Wallace said most of the money was returned, along with the clothes he threw out the window of his car and the gun he hid during the robbery.

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NYPD Arrests 24-Year-Old Suspect In Quadruple Homeless Homicide

There appears to be no rhyme or reason behind the vicious attacks on five of New York City's homeless, which has left not only the community but other New Yorkers shaking their heads in dismay.

According to The New York Times, Rudy Rodriguez Santos was arrested and charged in the quadruple homicide, which took place at about 2 AM Saturday (Oct. 5) in the Chinatown section of the city. Authorities have not released the names of the victims but revealed one of them was an 83-years-old man. The fifth victim has been transported to a nearby hospital.

Advocates for the homeless say there's no way to know exactly how many men and women are living on the street, however, in a 2018 tally the number was 3,588, with 62,000 men and women living in shelters.

Blocks away from the scene, police found 24-year-old Santos holding a bloody metal bar. He was reportedly taken into custody without incident.

“The motive appears to be, right now, just random attacks,” Michael Baldassano, the chief of Manhattan South Detectives said. “No one was targeted by race, age, anything of that nature.”

Santos was captured on surveillance footage approaching the area where one of the attacks took place. Another attack was recorded on a security camera. When approached by investigators, Santos identified himself in the video but didn't confess to the crime. He later asked for an attorney.

Tang Wu, a manager of the Forever Health Pharmacy at 2 East Broadway, caught the attacks on his store's camera and was flabbergasted at the callousness of it all.

“They have nowhere to live and you beat them to death,” Wu said. “How terrible.”

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