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Before his execution, a death row inmate told his victim's family he forgives them

In a press conference with CNN affiliate KSFY, a reporter reads executed death row inmate Charles Rhines' last words. Rhines was convicted of murder in the brutal stabbing of a 22-year-old man in 1992.

Posted: Nov 5, 2019 10:30 PM
Updated: Nov 5, 2019 10:30 PM

Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder in the brutal stabbing of a 22-year-old man in 1992, was executed in South Dakota Monday, the state's attorney general said, after the Supreme Court denied a last-ditch appeal of his case.

"I am hopeful that this day is an opportunity for the family to move forward and now, that this phase is over, they can continue to heal," South Dakota Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg said in a statement.

Rhines died by lethal injection, the attorney general said. He offered no apology before his death.

When he was asked if he had anything to say, Rhines turned to the parents of his victim for his last words.

"Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred towards me," he said, according to the Rapid City Journal newspaper. "I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred towards me"

Rhines was convicted in January 1993 for killing Donnivan Schaeffer during a burglary at a Rapid City doughnut shop, the attorney general said.

Schaeffer, Rhines' victim, was set to graduate Western Dakota Tech and was engaged to be married, Ravnsborg said.

"Donnivan was funny, kind and a hard worker, prepared to start a career with a telephone installation company," the attorney general said.

His fiancée, Sheila Jackson, said Monday that while the execution "closes the books on Rhines," Schaeffer's family will "forever feel the pain and the emotions that Rhines caused us."

"Donnivan firmly believed in the death penalty, and I am very happy that this has taken place," she said, according to CNN affiliate KELO.

He had appealed before

The execution was delayed by about six hours until the US Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Rhines.

Rhines petitioned the Supreme Court three times. All three were denied, the attorney general said, clearing the way for his execution.

The convicted killer had previously appealed his sentencing based on juror statements that his attorneys said indicated discrimination based on his sexuality. After Rhines' guilty verdict, jurors learned that he was gay and while deciding whether to sentence him to life imprisonment or death sent the trial judge a note with question on Rhines' sexuality.

On appeal, Rhines relied on the notes to argue anti-gay prejudice had influenced the juror's sentencing decision.

"Anti-gay bias, if left unaddressed, risks systemic harm to the justice system, and in particular, capital jury sentencing," Rhines' lawyers told the justices in court briefs.

The Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

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