After being found guilty of murdering his sister-in-law and then kidnapping and raping his estranged wife in 1990, a Georgia jury voted that Keith Tharpe be sentenced to death. His legal team appealed the sentencing decision. In the process, an interview with one of the jurors revealed that he had racist views and probably tainted the rest of the panel. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the Georgia lower court of appeals must hear Tharpe’s case.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta refused to even review the brief prepared by Tharpe’s attorneys last fall when they were seeking a stay of execution. The high court decided to issue the stay on Sept. 26, the day Tharpe was set to be executed. He had already eaten his last meal. But on Monday, a 6-3 vote will force the lower court to consider racial bias on the part of juror Barney Gattie. However, there are no guarantees that Tharpe will be granted permission to pursue his appeal.
“It may be, at the end of the day, Tharpe should not receive (permission to pursue his appeal),” the court said.
If the lower court allows the convicted murderer to pursue the appeal, the goal here would be to convert Tharpe’s death sentence to at least a life sentence. Tharpe isn’t innocent of murdering his sister-in-law and even recorded an apology to Jacquelyn Freeman’s family just hours before the scheduled execution.
But whether or not Tharpe should be put to death was in the hands of the jury and Gattie’s views may have influenced the conversations in the jury deliberation room.
“The Freemans are what I would call a nice Black family,” Gattis said according to his interview after the conviction. “In my experience, I have observed that there are two types of Black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers… I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the “good” Black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did… After studying the Bible, I have wondered if Black people even have souls.”
In spite of Gattie’s hateful statements, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas voted against the appeal saying that the process would only delay justice for Freeman.
Legal Defense Fund: RT MauriceChammah: Breaking: Supreme Court says courts should further consider the case of Keith Tharpe, who was sentenced to death. A juror later called him the n-word and said he "wondered if black people even have souls." The decis… pic.twitter.com/uYnlEEUdYi
— Human Dev Project (@humandevproject) January 8, 2018