Supreme Court Reopens Death Sentence of Black Convict

Supreme Court revives case of death row inmate who said juror was racist

Gattie used racial slurs and said his study of the Bible led him to question "if black people even have souls", according to court filings.

The Supreme Court cited a sworn statement by Barney Gattie, a white juror who was interviewed by Tharpe's lawyers seven years after the conviction.

"Gattie's remarkable affidavit-which he never retracted-presents a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe's race affected Gattie's vote for a death verdict", the majority wrote.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta probably will reach the same conclusion and deny Tharpe's appeal on other grounds, he wrote, referring to his colleagues' action as a "useless do-over". Now the court is giving Tharpe - convicted of killing Jacquelin Freeman, his sister-in-law, 27 years ago - another chance to have a court hear his claims of racial bias on his sentencing.

Justice Clarence Thomas wasn't in favor of the ruling and stated despite the language used by Gattie, who is now deceased, Tharpe will lose his appeal.

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Previously, a state post-conviction court rejected Tharpe's petition, finding that he could not prove juror misconduct because Georgia law doesn't allow parties to impeach jury verdicts with post-trial testimony, and he did not raise the issue on direct appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court had already halted Tharpe's scheduled execution the night it was initially scheduled in September. Tharpe blocked their vehicle, dragged Freeman out and shot her three times with a shotgun.

Thomas said the court was swayed by the "odious" remarks in Gattie's statement, but should have focused on procedural problems with Tharpe's case and the lower court's determination that Tharpe's death sentence did not depend upon racist considerations by the jury. He said "there are two types of black people: 1". Back when Clarence Thomas was going through his confirmation hearings, he said that his presence on the court would be valuable because, as a black man who was raised in extreme poverty, he would have compassion and understanding for the circumstances of numerous people whose cases came before the court. Thomas writes that during a state court deposition, Gattie claimed that while he did sign the affidavit, he did not swear to it. Gattie also testified that on the day he signed the document, he'd had "m$3 aybe a 12 pack, [and] a few drinks of whiskey over the period of the day".

Gattie also maintained he'd been drinking when he signed his first affidavit, Thomas said. "The court must be disturbed by the racist rhetoric in that affidavit and must want to do something about it". "The attention to racial discrimination is long overdue because it has always been a factor in many criminal cases and particularly in death penalty cases", he said.

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