U.S. Supreme Court Sides With Death Row Inmate Over Racist Juror Claim

Keith Tharpe argued his case was tainted by a racist white juror who questioned whether Black people have souls.


(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a Black Georgia inmate to challenge his 1991 death sentence for killing his sister-in-law after he argued the case was tainted by a racist white juror who questioned whether Black people have souls.

The justices, in a 6-3 unsigned decision, threw out a lower court’s decision that had rejected his biased jury assertion. Keith Tharpe was found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury of 10 white people and two Black people in Georgia’s Jones County. The allegations of racial bias arose from an interview with one of the jurors years later, not comments made during the trial.

Monday’s ruling means the case will return to lower courts and gives Tharpe a chance to avoid execution.

Tharpe had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection in a Georgia state prison on Sept. 26 but the Supreme Court granted his last-minute stay application so it could have more time to decide whether to hear his appeal.

Tharpe, 59, kidnapped and raped his estranged wife, Migrisus Tharpe, and used a shotgun to kill Jaquelin Freeman, her sister, in September 1990, according to court records.

Three of the court’s conservatives, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dissented from Monday’s decision.

Thomas, the court’s only Black justice, is also from Georgia. He pointed out in his dissenting opinion that the court’s decision will “delay justice” for the victim, who was also Black.

“The court’s decision is no profile in moral courage,” Thomas said.

In 1998 Tharpe’s lawyers, as they were preparing an appeal in the case, spoke with the trial jurors including a man named Barney Gattie, who has since died.

“After studying the Bible, I have wondered if Black people even have souls,” Gattie told Tharpe’s lawyers in an affidavit, according to court papers.

Gattie also told the defense lawyers that there are two kinds of Black people, one who he called “regular Black folks” and another group he referred to using a racial slur.

“Because I knew the victim and her husband’s family and knew them all to be good Black folks, I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the good Black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did,” Gattie added.

The 12-person jury, including its two Black members, voted unanimously to sentence Tharpe to death.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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  • Making the radical choice to not murder people could help avoid having to face a tainted jury..

    • A juror who doubts whether Black people have souls would not care whether such a soulless being was even guilty of the alleged crime, regardless of the choices made — or not made — by a Black defendant.

  • “Three of the court’s conservatives, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dissented from Monday’s decision.”

    Welp, I see the stolen SCOTUS seat given to the dishonorable Neil Gorsuck by the souless repugnantcans in the Senate, is paying dividends already.

    No surprises there.

  • First off if the juror would have actually studied the bible they would know the so called Negros are the real Hebrew people the real Jews mostly of the tribe of Judah! Next, How is it that there are always some Evil white person disrespecting black people. First do we need to do a history lesson white people have slaughtered every Nationality of people accept themselves! They owe us for destroying us! The did genocide on the black aboriginal people then the black Native Americans the real native Americans. Then they slaughtered the children who are really Israelite’s in the Congo cut off their hands for no reason! The had other world leaders killed when they opposed this system. They did it all like cowards they pay somebody else rather than do the dirt then try making everyone else look like monsters when they do wrong! Truth is the white race are the biggest killers every known and are the biggest terrorist but claim everyone else is! They have seem to think they can say what is right and wrong or what is moral when they themselves have no morals! So If I were him I would sue that person for disrespecting our people! Matter fact this is what needs to start happening every single time they disrespect us in the slightest way with racism and bigotry we are going to hit them pockets and when they family eating out of trash cans they will learn to shut up! Now, what he did was wrong as a matter of fact he got what he had coming! But what kills me is how the hell every single time a black person go to court there is always more white jurors then black! Our peers are black not white! You won’t see more black Jurors when a white person on trials no you see maybe 2 black people! This whole system is corrupt! How do we even know the complete circumstance of the case when we have bigots behind the bench and on the Jury!

    • Exactly what law is being broken during all this alleged ‘disrespect’? You do realize your feelings aren’t in the civil or criminal code, right?

  • Lena Vasquez

    It’s doesn’t matter what was said, who said, what. The fact if the matter is he kidnapped and raped is wife and killed her sister. Those are the facts. He’s guilty. Let him pay for his mistake.

    • You’re seeing the cost of bigotry. I do not believe in the death penalty, but that’s the law of the state where he was convicted. This man is not going to go to the electric chair because one of the jurors is a bigot.

      There is always a cost for racism.

    • Well, those are certainly the “facts” that were found by a tainted jury. If an untainted jury makes those same findings, no doubt he will “pay for his mistake.”

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