WMAZ-TV reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Keith Tharpe, a convicted killer on Death Row in Georgia, who believes he was convicted in part by a racist juror. The case has been sent back to the federal appeals court.
Tharpe was scheduled for execution in September, but the court granted a stay in the hours before his scheduled death so it could review his appeal.
In 1991, Tharpe was convicted and given the death penalty when, according to his lawyers, a juror influenced the decision and “wondered if black people even have souls.”
In the original case, Tharpe was accused of murdering Jacquelin Freeman and kidnapping his estranged wife. He is now 59 years old.
The racist juror, Barnie Gattie, used racial slurs freely and described Tharpe as a “n-----“ and stated this was why he voted for the death penalty for him as well.
Gattie was interviewed in 1998 by Tharpe’s legal team and confirmed those comments and assessments. Tharpe’s attorneys argue not that he is innocent, but rather he didn’t receive a fair and impartial jury during his sentencing phase.
In the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Tharpe was denied an appeal because, according to court documents, it could not be determined that the bias of Gettie affected the sentence. The Supreme Court argued against the circuit court and in a written statement said “Gattie’s remarkable affidavit – which he never retracted – provides a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe’s face affected Gattie’s vote for a death verdict.”
A date has yet to be set for a hearing in the 11th Circuit Court.
Tharpe’s lawyers stated that in previous cases, Georgia courts have determined a juror’s statements after the fact can’t be considered during an appeal. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that lower courts should consider statements of “overt racial bias,” says WMAZ.
*Photo credit WMAZ-TV