The Supreme Court, voting 6 to 3, ordered a lower court review of an appeal by Georgia death row inmate Keith Tharpe because a juror said Tharpe “wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the review was unwarranted and “callously delays justice” for the victim.
A divided Supreme Court on Monday ordered lower courts to consider Georgia death row inmate Keith Tharpe’s petitition to review his conviction because one member of a juror who found him guilty was biased against Tharpe because he is black. An unsigned opinion by six Justices said that a white juror said he believed “there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers,” that Tharpe, “who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” The court majority said that based on the “unusual facts” of the case, an appeals court should not have ruled that it was indisputable that the white juror’s service did not prejudice Tharpe.
In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for himself and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said that the majority’s “unusual disposition of this case callously delays justice for Jaquelin Freeman, the black woman who was brutally murdered by Tharpe 27 years ago. Because this Court should not be in the business of ceremonial handwringing, I respectfully dissent.” According to Thomas’ summary of the case, after Tharpe’s wife, Migrisus, left him in 1990, despite a no-contact order, Tharpe called her and told her that if she wanted to “‘play dirty’” he would show her “‘what dirty was.’” The next morning, Tharpe ambushed his wife and Freeman, her sister, as they drove to work, shot Freeman, rolled her body into a ditch, reloaded, and shot her again, killing her. After murdering Freeman, Tharpe kidnapped and raped his wife, leaving Freeman’s body lying in the ditch.