Thursday, 13 December, 2018

SCOTUS Sides With Inmate Over Juror's Use of N-Word

SCOTUS Sides With Inmate Over Juror's Use of N-Word SCOTUS Sides With Inmate Over Juror's Use of N-Word
Melinda Barton | 10 January, 2018, 11:22

A juror used a racial slur to describe Tharpe years after Tharpe was convicted of killing Jacquelin Freeman, his sister-in-law, 27 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday granted a reprieve from execution to a Georgia death-row inmate, expressing concerns that a juror's racist beliefs unfairly prejudiced the case. 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. "We are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the serious implications for fundamental fairness involving the racial animus on the part of the juror in this case and the fact it needs to receive more attention", he said.

Later, a U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia denied Tharpe's writ of habeas corpus petition based on juror bias, and the finding was affirmed by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The justices, in a 6-3 unsigned decision, threw out a lower court's decision that had rejected his biased jury assertion.

The 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".

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.

"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 Supreme Court halted Tharpe's execution on September 26, after Tharpe had eaten what was to be his last meal and more than three hours after the scheduled time of his execution. "My feeling is, what would be the difference?" "At the very least", the court reasoned, "jurists of reason could debate whether Tharpe has shown by clear and convincing evidence that the state court's factual determination was wrong".

It also noted Mr. Gattie later issued a second affidavit, and said his previous statements were out of context and carried out after he had been drinking.

The majority's decision "merely delays Tharpe's inevitable execution", Thomas said. "But their odiousness does not excuse us from doing our job correctly, or allow us to pretend that the lower courts have not done theirs", Thomas wrote in the dissent. 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.