SCOTUS Grants Reprieve in Racial Death Penalty Case
SCOTUS Grants Reprieve in Racial Death Penalty Case
Supreme Court gives death row inmate new appeal after juror's racist beliefs
10 January, 2018, 04:31
It is at least debatable, and a federal appeals court erred by saying it's not, the court said.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta probably will reach the same conclusion and deny Tharpe's appeal on other grounds, he wrote, referring to his colleagues' action as a "useless do-over".
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".
The U.S. Supreme Court sent a death-row case back to the lower courts January 8 in a summary ruling.
Tharpe petitioned to reopen his habeas petition last June, citing new Supreme Court opinions regarding grants for certificate of appealability claims based on extraordinary circumstances. But the state post-conviction court would not consider any evidence of potential racial bias, and a federal district court also declined to consider that evidence.
Thomas says the appeal delays justice for Jacquelin Freeman, "the black woman who was brutally murdered by Tharpe 27 years ago". He shot and killed Freeman and left her body in a ditch while kidnapping and later raping his estranged wife. After shooting Ms. Freeman with a shotgun, Mr. Tharpe kidnapped his wife and allegedly sexually assaulted her. They found that the jury had not been prejudiced against Tharpe.
The high court's majority opinion said Gattie, who has since died, never retracted his "remarkable affidavit", which provides evidence that "Tharpe's race affected Gattie's vote for a death verdict".
"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", Brian Kammer, Tharpe's attorney said in an emailed statement. Thomas writes that during a state court deposition, Gattie claimed that while he did sign the affidavit, he did not swear to it. Gattie also testified that on the day he signed the document, he'd had "m$3 aybe a 12 pack, [and] a few drinks of whiskey over the period of the day".
The majority's decision "merely delays Tharpe's inevitable execution", Thomas said.
"The court must be disturbed by the racist rhetoric in that affidavit, and must want to do something about it", Justice Thomas wrote.
Stephen Bright, a law professor at Yale and Georgia State law schools, said the decision shows how the high court is increasingly requiring lower courts to carefully examine racial bias issues.
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