The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday is set to deliberate over the case of a Georgia death row inmate, Keith Tharpe, and the words of one juror who used racial slurs to describe him.
Tharpe was sentenced to death in 1991 following the killing of his sister-in-law Jackie Freeman, and the sexual assault of his estranged wife Migrisus Tharpe.
In a sworn affidavit, one member of the jury later explained his decision to sentence Tharpe to death.
Barney Gattie, a white man, said he thought their were two types of black people, one group he called “black folks” and another that he used the N-word to describe.
Gattie said Tharpe wasn’t in the “black folks” category, and for that reason, should get the electric chair.
“After studying the Bible,” Gattie said, “I have wondered if black people even have souls.”
In court filings, lawyers for Tharpe argue Gattie’s presence on the jury denied their client the right to a trial without “the pernicious effects of racial bigotry,” and the Supreme Court should hear arguments in an appeal.
“I have a client who I would like not to be executed on the basis of a record showing that he was sentenced to death partly on the basis of his skin color,” said Marcy Widder, an attorney for Tharpe with the Georgia Resource Center.
The State of Georgia argues that for procedural reasons, what Gattie said isn’t reason for an appeal.
The court could issue an order in the case as soon as Monday, but it may take longer.