- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2018

The Supreme Court on Monday gave a convicted murderer a second chance at appealing his death sentence after one of the jurors made racist statements about the defendant.

White juror Barney Gattie said in a sworn affidavit that “[a]fter studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.” He also used a slur to categorize Keith Tharpe, the black defendant.

Tharpe argued that attitude affected the Georgia jury’s death sentence decision for his convictions of kidnapping and raping his estranged wife and murdering her sister nearly three decades ago.

A lower court had ruled that the jury’s decision wasn’t tainted by Mr. Gattie’s views, but the justices said it was possible.

“On the unusual facts of this case, the Court of Appeals’ review should not have rested on the ground that it was indisputable among reasonable jurists that Gattie’s service on the jury did not prejudice Tharpe,” read the Supreme Court’s unsigned ruling Monday.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented, saying the court’s opinion will not only delay the execution, but it will delay justice for the victim’s family.

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.

“If bad facts make bad law, then ‘unusual facts’ inspire unusual decisions,” the dissent noted.

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