Keith Tharpe (Georgia Department of Corrections)

Keith Tharpe should have been dead.

He was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 26, 2017. The state of Georgia had already made up its mind to execute Tharpe despite the fact that his attorneys say that his IQ is below the legal threshold for a person to understand the charges or their crime. Even though attorneys agree that Tharpe received “horrifyingly uninformed and unconcerned legal representation,” they were going to kill him.

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But it was the fact that one of the jurors who convicted Tharpe was a virulent racist that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to demand that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals re-examine Tharpe’s case, citing the court’s error in discounting the racial bias of one of the jurors—namely, Barney Gattie.

In Georgia, jurors must unanimously decide on the death penalty for it to take effect, which happened after Tharpe’s 1991 murder conviction. Seven years after the conviction, attorneys trying to appeal Tharpe’s case interviewed Gattie and found him to be a racist whose virulent hate would go unmatched until a man with skin the color and consistency of Goldfish crackers took up residence in the White House.

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When they interviewed Gattie, according to Time magazine, he proudly proclaimed, among other things:

  • 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 it.
  • 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.”
  • Some of the jurors wanted Tharpe to serve as “an example for other blacks who kill blacks.”

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Still, after this information was provided in Tharpe’s appeal, the 11th Circuit Court said that Gattie’s racial animus wasn’t enough to prove that he was biased in his vote to convict. The state of Georgia knew it, but they were going to execute Tharpe anyway. Just typing that sentence gave me the heebie-jeebies because ... white people. Oh, and cold-blooded murder.

But the Supreme Court granted Tharpe a last-minute stay on the day of his scheduled execution. After reviewing the case, justices basically told the 11th Circuit Court: “You’ve gotta be kidding me! This juror was way too racist! Maybe you should look at this again.” In a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

Where a juror makes a clear statement that indicates he or she relied on racial stereotypes or animus to convict a criminal defendant, the Sixth Amendment requires that the no impeachment rule give way in order to permit the trial court to consider the evidence of the juror’s statement and any resulting denial of the jury trial guarantee.

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In a statement to The Root, Tharpe’s attorney Brian Kammer said:

We are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the serious implications for fundamental fairness of the clear evidence of racial animus on the part of one of the jurors who sentenced Mr. Tharpe to death. We look forward to pressing Mr. Tharpe’s case in the Eleventh Circuit per the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction.

The lower court will now re-examine the case under the directions handed down by the Supreme Court. The new ruling does not guarantee that Tharpe’s death sentence will be overturned, but ...

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He’s still not dead.

Read more at Time magazine.