Lawyers: Juror's Racism Taints Death Sentence

Georgia juror wondered if black people 'even have souls'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 25, 2017 12:17 AM CDT
This photo provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows Keith Leroy Tharpe.   (Georgia Department of Corrections)

(Newser) – As Georgia prepares to put to death a man who killed his sister-in-law 27 years ago, his lawyers say the execution should be stopped because his death sentence is tainted by a juror's racial bias. Lawyers for the state reject that argument and say Keith Leroy Tharpe, 59, should die as scheduled Tuesday for the September 1990 slaying of Jacquelyn Freeman, the AP reports. Tharpe went to trial a little more than three months after the killing and was convicted and sentenced to death. Seven years later, lawyers working on Tharpe's behalf interviewed jurors. "In my experience I have observed that there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. (N-words)," juror Barney Gattie told them.

He knew the victim's family and knew them to be "good black folks," he said, and he felt that Tharpe was not in that category, so he should be executed. "After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls," said Gattie, who has since died. He signed an affidavit including those statements but two days later, state lawyers visited Gattie and he signed a new affidavit walking back what he'd told Tharpe's team. He said he had been drinking before the earlier meetings and he sentenced Tharpe to death because of evidence, not race. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only authority in Georgia with the power to commute a death sentence, has scheduled a clemency hearing on Monday. (Read more execution stories.)

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