Inmate on death row faces court hearing

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Charles Rhines is set to face execution next week, but first, he faces another court hearing Tuesday over the drugs planned to be used in the lethal injection.

Rhines was sentenced to death on Jan. 29, 1993. Rhines was convicted for the murder of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer during a burglary of a Rapid City donut shop. He is one of 2,673 prisoners total on death row.

The case in state court right now looks at the drugs that will be used to execute Rhines.

The current state law says, “the warden, subject to the approval of the secretary of corrections, shall determine the substances and the quantity of substances used for the punishment of death.”

Effectively, the state can use the drug of the warden’s choice. The last three executions used a one-drug lethal injection of pentobarbital. Before that, the state used a three-drug cocktail, but that process was ended due to supply issues.

The current state law opened the door to allow anyone sentenced to death before July 1, 2007, to choose between the current process to execute or the manner in South Dakota law at the time of conviction or sentence.

The inmate on death row is required, by law, to notify the warden seven days before the scheduled week of execution with his or her decision. If the person doesn’t respond, then they move forward as normal.

Media gather outside the South Dakota Penitentiary on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in preparation for the execution of 50-year-old Eric Robert, who pleaded guilty to the April 2011 slaying of Ronald “R.J.” Johnson, a prison guard. (AP Photo/Amber Hunt)

Rhines notified the warden on Oct. 1, 2019, saying he wanted to be executed in the manner that was in effect at the time of his sentencing. RHINES REQUEST (p. 23)

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That, according to court documents, was the two-drug cocktail:

  • A lethal dose of an ultra-short acting barbiturate
  • A chemical paralytic

In an October 17 letter from assistant attorney general Paul Swedlund, Rhines was notified that the state would use pentobarbital as the “ultra-short-acting barbiturate.” LETTER FROM AG’S OFFICE (p. 26)

Rhines’ legal team is concerned about the drug being used. The court hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. KELOLAND News will be in the courtroom.

Read both sides of the argument:

State argues Charles Rhines’ execution should move forward amid fight over lethal drugs

State argues Charles Rhines’ execution should move forward amid fight over lethal drugs

The State of South Dakota argues that the execution of Charles Rhines should move forward next week, according to court papers filed Monday.

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