Charles Rhines asked about technology in the execution chamber and wanted to make sure people heard his last words before he died, according to the official transcript of his execution.
The transcript was released Wednesday afternoon by the Department of Corrections after Rhines was executed Monday evening at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
A Pennington County jury convicted Rhines in 1993 of first-degree murder for stabbing Donnivan Schaeffer, his former co-worker and 22-year-old Black Hawk resident, while burglarizing a doughnut shop in west Rapid City in March 1992.
The jury also sentenced Rhines to death but the sentence was delayed due to years of appeals and lawsuits he filed in state and federal court challenging his conviction and sentence. Rhines was scheduled to be executed at 1:30 p.m. Central Time on Monday, but the sentence was again put on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court announced around 6:30 p.m. that it declined to hear his three remaining legal challenges.
The transcript begins when the blinds to the witness rooms were still closed, before this reporter and the two other media witnesses could make out what Rhines and others inside the execution chamber were saying.
"That pick me up?" Charles Rhines asked Warden Darin Young about the boom mic positioned over his head as he lay strapped to a table inside the execution chamber.
Young assured Rhines that the microphone was capturing his voice but did not respond when Rhines asked if it was a condenser mic. Young then asked Associate Warden Troy Ponto to open the blinds and again did not respond when Rhines asked about the technology behind the blinds.
"Oh, you don’t have motors on those? Well," Rhines said as Ponto opened the blinds at 7:29 p.m. for the media witnesses, Rhines' witnesses and Schaeffer's loved ones.
Rhines lay on a white sheet and was draped in another white sheet that covered his entire body from his feet to his mid-chest. He had dark gray hair and a light gray mustache, wore large glasses and a bright orange short-sleeve shirt and had his left arm extended to the side and secured with a brown leather strap. Young, Ponto and DOC Secretary Mike Leidholt wore suits and stood in the right hand corner of the chamber.
Rhines moved his left hand between the sign language symbol for love and the shaka or hang loose hand gesture as Leidholt told Young that the execution could proceed.
Leidholt stepped forward and announced that he had contacted Gov. Kristi Noem, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Daivd Gilbertson and there were no more legal challenges to the execution.
"Therefore, Warden Young, you may proceed to carry out the order of the court," he said.
"Charles Rhines, you have you have been convicted of the crime of first-degree murder of Donnivan Schaeffer. You have been sentenced to death by lethal injection for this crime. This is the time and place for the execution of that sentence. Do you have any last words?" Young asked as he stood over Rhines.
"Yes, I do," Rhines said at 7:31 p.m., the same time the pentobarbital — a barbiturate that slows the central nervous system — began flowing into his veins.
"Edwin and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and your hatred towards me, and I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and your hatred towards me," he said in a clear and calm voice. "And uh, thanks to my team, my legal team and the people who stood with me to the end here. I appreciate it. I love you all. Goodbye. Let’s do this. Let’s go."
"Okay" Young responded.
"I'm ready," Rhines said before Young said "okay" again. "That's it, that's all I've got to say," Rhines said. "Okay, thanks," said Young.
Rhines said "goodbye" before taking a deep, audible breath and said "that's it" — what this reporter and the other media witnesses mistook as "sis" — before his head turned to the right, away from the window.
He took a few more heavy breaths and made some shallow ones before becoming totally still at 7:33 p.m. Rhines' hand and limbs never twitched, and he didn’t make any other sounds besides the breathing ones.
By 7:38 p.m., Rhines’ face and left hand appeared clammy and turned a bit blue, white and gray. A coroner walked in and used a stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat in various locations on his chest. He pronounced Rhines dead at 7:39 p.m. and the curtains were closed so Rhines could be examined and taken away for an autopsy.
The Schaeffers told the media that Rhines' comments were all about him, rather than their son.
“We looked at each other” in the viewing room and “I almost had to laugh” Peggy said, calling the comments surprising and "really odd."
The Schaeffers said they were never angry at Rhines and didn’t hate him because they never knew him. Instead, they said, they hated what he did.
(Death row inmate Charles Rhines): That pick me up?
You have free articles remaining.
(Warden Darin Young): Yep.
Rhines: Alright. Condenser mic?
Young: Mr. (Associate Warden Troy) Ponto, you can open the blinds.
Rhines: Condenser mic?
Rhines: Oh, you don’t have motors on those? Well.
(Department of Corrections Secretary Mike) Leidholt: We have contacted the Governor of South Dakota, the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, and the Attorney General’s Office. No stays have been issued to set aside the warrant of death sentence and execution in the matter of State of South Dakota vs. Charles Rhines. Therefore, Warden Young, you may proceed to carry out the order of the court.
Young: Charles Rhines, you have you have been convicted of the crime of first-degree murder of Donnivan Schaeffer. You have been sentenced to death by lethal injection for this crime. This is the time and place for the execution of that sentence. Do you have any last words?
Rhines: Yes, I do. Edwin and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and your hatred towards me, and I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and your hatred towards me. And uh, thanks to my team, my legal team and the people who stood with me to the end here. I appreciate it. I love you all. Goodbye. Let’s do this. Let’s go.
Rhines: I’m ready.
Rhines: That’s it, that’s all I’ve got to say.
Young: Okay, thanks.
Rhines: (heavy breathing) That’s it. (mumbled words, heavy breathing)
(Muffled talking and background noises)
Young: I’ll ask that the coroner please step in.
Young: Can you perform an exam please?
Coroner: Yes, sir.
Coroner: The time of death is 7:39.
Young: Thank you.
Young: You can now close the blinds