On Tuesday, Sept. 26, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not intercede, the state of Georgia will execute Keith Tharpe.
Keith Tharpe is probably guilty.
In Georgia, an impartial jury must unanimously vote for capital punishment in order for a person to receive the death penalty. In 1991, when Tharpe was convicted, every juror voted for him to be put to death. If one of those jurors had objected, Tharpe would be serving life in prison. Instead, he is going to die.
Barney Gattie, who was supposed to be one of those impartial jurors, is a virulent racist. There were probably others, but there is no doubt about Gattie. Lawyers, appellate court judges and even Keith Tharpe know it, but Tharpe is going to be executed anyway.
According to Time, lawyers seeking an appeal for Tharpe interviewed Gattie and the rest of the jurors in 1998. Here are some of the things Gattie said:
- There is a difference between “good black folks” like the victims Tharpe murdered and “niggers.”
- He owned a store and routinely kicked “niggers” out of his store.
- He voted for the death penalty because he thinks Tharpe is a “nigger.”
- If Nicole Brown Simpson hadn’t married a “nigger” (O.J. Simpson), she would still be alive.
- He often “wondered if black people even have souls.”
After this interview, Gattie looked over the lawyers’ notes and initialed them, confirming them to be true and accurate (though he later denied his statement).
Apart from Gattie’s racism, Tharpe also could not afford good legal representation. His aunt said that he grew up not even able to afford “proper food.” He received “horrifyingly uninformed and unconcerned legal representation,” in part because he could not understand what was going on. Tharpe is also intellectually challenged. In 2002 the Supreme Court ruled the execution of the intellectually disabled to be unconstitutional.
Tharpe’s appeals have been denied numerous times, and unless the Supreme Court steps in and saves his life, he will be put to death in a few days. This is not justice. This is cruel. This is unusual. This is a state-sanctioned, legal lynching.
This is America.
Read more at Time magazine.