The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday declined to review a case involving a gay man who may have been sentenced to death rather than life in prison because of his sexual orientation.

Charles Rhines is on death row in South Dakota for the 1992 murder of an employee in the course of a commercial burglary. Rhines stabbed the 22-year-old employee to death after he caught him burglarizing a doughnut shop in Rapid City.

Six civil rights organizations – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of South Dakota, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and National LGBT Bar Association – had urged the Eighth Circuit to hear an appeal in the case, arguing that compelling new evidence showed that some jurors were motivated by anti-gay bias.

The three-judge panel voted 2-1 not to review the case.

“Plaintiff-Appellant Charles Russell Rhines has offered evidence that some of the jurors who voted to impose the death penalty on him in 1993 may have done so based on the pernicious stereotype that the alternative – a life sentence served in a men's prison – was something he would enjoy as a gay man,” the groups wrote in an amicus brief.

The jury sent a note to the judge asking whether, if sentenced to life without parole, Rhines would “be allowed to mix with the general inmate population,” be able to “brag about his crime to other inmates, especially new and/or young men,” enjoy “conjugal visits,” and whether he would “have a cellmate.”

The new evidence is statements made by jurors. One juror said that the jury “knew that [Rhines] was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn't be able to spend his life with men in prison.” Another juror said that there was “lots of discussion of homosexuality” during deliberations. A third juror recalled a juror saying that prison is “where [Rhines] wants to go.”

Rhines' attorney, Shawn Nolan, said in a statement that “anti-gay stereotypes and animus should have no role in our criminal justice system and certainly should never be a reason to impose a death sentence.”

“We express our appreciation to the six civil rights organizations … who filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Eighth Circuit. The amici brief provided critical information about the long and painful history of discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United States, which created the context in which Mr. Rhines received a death sentence and persists in the current day,” he added.