The fate of a Black Georgia man who was slated to be executed will lie in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, reports NBC News.
In 1991, Keith Tharpe was convicted of killing his sister-in-law Jacquelyn Freeman after having marital issues with his wife, the news outlet writes. Nearly 26 years ago, he reportedly ambushed the two, fatally shot Freeman and then sexually assaulted his wife. It took the jury only nine days to decide that Tharpe was guilty and should receive a death sentence.
Years after the Jones County jury made their decision, Tharpe filed an appeal claiming that one of the jurors was racially biased. According to NBC News, his legal team got their hands on a signed affidavit that included racially-charged statements from a juror named Barney Gattie. “I have observed there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. N——. I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did,” said Gattie according to the affidavit. “After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls,” he added.
Prosecutors created a counter-affidavit where Gattie, who is now deceased, claimed that he was intoxicated when he provided the previous statements and that he didn’t use the n-word in a derogatory manner, reports the source.
According to NBC News, over the past few years Tharpe’s legal team has made several attempts to appeal his death sentence; but have come up short since Georgia had a regulation in place that prevented parties from contesting a verdict based on juror statements. However, earlier this year an exception was added to that rule which allows evidence of racial bias by jurors to have an impact on a case’s outcome if there is proof that it was a huge factor in the decision. The new rule—which came after the Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado trial—will possibly change the course of Tharpe’s case.
NBC News reports the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Tharpe’s request because there was no evidence that Gattie’s statements heavily influenced the jury’s decision. Tharpe’s legal team will now file new appeals on a state level and with the U.S. Supreme Court.
“There’s a new awareness in the Supreme Court that we can’t dance around the implication of having a juror like this in the deliberation room,” Tharpe’s lawyer Brian Kammer told NBC News. Freeman’s family has yet to comment on the matter.
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SOURCE: NBC News