Should death penalty be thrown out if ju­ror bi­ased?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - By Pamela Miller

Keith Tharpe was con­victed in 1991 of killing his sis­ter-in-law and kid­nap­ping and rap­ing his es­tranged wife on Sept. 25, 1990. The wife left him and moved in with her par­ents. He in­ter­cepted her and her sis­ter, Jac­que­line Free­man, while they were on their way to work. He killed Free­man, , dragged his es­tranged wife in a ditch and raped her and drove her to Ma­con to force her to with­draw money from her credit union ac­count.

With only 100 days to pre­pare the case, Tharpe’s de­fense team lost the trial. The jury unan­i­mously sen­tenced him to death.

Eight years later, claims of a racially bi­ased ju­ror sur­faced. The man in ques­tion, Bar­ney Gat­tie, ad­mit­ted he used racial ep­i­thets and racially bi­ased lan­guage when de­scrib­ing Tharpe. Now-de­ceased, Gat­tie signed an af­fi­davit for Tharpe’s lawyers stat­ing that. Two days later, he signed an­other af­fi­davit for the state say­ing that he voted for Tharpe to re­ceive the death penalty be­cause he was a cold, cal­cu­lated mur­derer, not be­cause he was black.

Tharpe’s lawyers filed new mo­tions after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that courts can ex­am­ine what hap­pened in a jury room when there are show­ings that racial prej­u­dice played a role in the de­lib­er­a­tions.

U.S. Dis­trict judge re­jected the claims be­cause 10 other jurors said there was no racial an­i­mus in their de­lib­er­a­tions.

Tharpe’s lawyers are now ask­ing the 11th Cir­cuit to con­sider the ju­ror mis­con­duct claim.

What do you think? Should the death penalty be thrown out? Send your re­sponse to com­mu­ni­tynews@ajc.com.

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