Death Row Inmate Granted An Appeal After Juror Questions “If Black People Even Have Souls”

The Supreme Court is giving a man on death row a second chance after it was revealed a juror’s racist commentary may have played a part in his conviction and sentencing.

On Monday, (Jan. 8) the Justices ruled 6-3 that Atlanta’s Federal appeals court should re-examine the case against Keith Leroy Tharpe who was found guilty of murdering his sister-in-law, and sentenced to death in 1991.

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According to the New York Daily News, the appeal comes from interviews Tharpe’s legal team conducted in 1998 with a white juror named Barney Gattie.  Reportedly, Gattie used racial slurs when describing Tharpe, and alleged his knowledge of the Bible led him to wonder “if black people even have souls.” Gattie signed an affidavit, although he testified he ruled in favor of Tharpe’s conviction due to the evidence.

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. However, the other justices who ruled in favor of a Tharpe said Gattie’s language shows “Tharpe’s race affected Gattie’s vote for a death verdict.”

Thomas says the appeal delays justice for Jacquelin Freeman, “the black woman who was brutally murdered by Tharpe 27 years ago.”

Tharpe’s wife took their four daughters and left him in August of 1990. Reportedly, while Tharpe’s wife and sister were in a car, Tharpe blocked them on the road in the truck he was driving. Armed with a gun, a dispute ensued and Tharpe fatally shot Freeman.

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Tharpe was found guilty and sentenced three months later.