SCOTUS ruled that the trial of a death row inmate may have been tainted by a juror who questioned whether African Americans have souls.
In a 6-3 ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Keith Tharpe should be given another chance to appeal his 1990 murder conviction.
In a sworn affidavit, white juror, Barney Gattie had called him a niggar and said under oath, “After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.”
Tharpe was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law after his wife left him.
On the day scheduled for his execution , after he had eaten what he thought was his last meal, the call for lethal injection was halted.
The Supreme Court cited the sworn statement by Barney Gattie, 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 Supreme Court ruled.
The ruling also orders Georgia’s US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to hear an appeal from Tharpe, and to take the juror’s admission of racism into account in their ruling.
The Supreme Court’s only black judge, Clarence Thomas, disagreed with Monday’s ruling, arguing in a 13-page dissent that by delaying the execution judges were engaging in “ceremonial handwringing”.
He called Tharpe’s appeal – nearly 30 years after the crime – “a useless do-over”.
“The court must be disturbed by the racist rhetoric in that affidavit, and must want to do something about it,” Justice Thomas wrote.
“But the court’s decision is no profile in moral courage,” he added.
Georgia death row prisoner Keith Tharpe, shown here with his grandchild, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. Courtesy Georgia Resource Center