Summary of Offense:
Rhines was convicted of the 1992 torture murder of Donnivan Schaefer in the course of a Rapid City donut shop burglary. He was tried and convicted, and sentenced to death, before a Pennington County jury in 1993. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction in 1996. Rhines sought state post-conviction habeas corpus relief in late 1996.
Habeas corpus is a procedure where a defendant seeks to overturn his criminal conviction because of allegations that his constitutional rights have been violated at trial. The South Dakota Circuit Court denied habeas corpus to Rhines in 1998, and the South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed this denial on February 9, 2000. Thereafter, Rhines sought habeas corpus relief in the United States District Court. That court held that because certain issues were never raised before the State courts, Rhines could return to State court and raise certain issues there.
The State appealed the order allowing return to State court without dismissal of the federal petition to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the State, and said Rhines will have to either pursue the issues he has already raised in the State courts, or dismiss the present habeas case in federal court and return to State court. If he dismisses the present federal habeas petition, he might not be permitted to return a second time to federal court. Rhines’ lawyers asked the United States Supreme Court to review his case, and their request was granted in June 2004. The United States Supreme Court decided that the Court could stay the petition under the appropriate circumstances in a decision dated March 30, 2005.
When the matter came back before the United States District Court, that Court re-instituted its stay of the federal proceeding and allowed Rhines to pursue further relief before the state courts. At the present time, the matter is pending before the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit on Rhines’s second state habeas petition. That court has required the State to file a return, and the matter is pending before the court await the State’s return.