Tomorrow evening, Keith Tharpe is scheduled to be executed in Georgia for the murder of his sister-in-law 27 years ago. If it happens, this will be Georgia’s second execution this year, after a record-setting nine executions last year. But what makes Tharpe’s case different is that one of the (white) jurors in his trial referred to the defendant with a racial slur, and told Tharpe’s lawyers that there were “two kinds of black people,” respectable ones like the victim, and less-respectable people like Tharpe. He explained that if the victim had been like Tharpe he wouldn’t have voted for death, and wondered out loud if “black people even have souls.”
Tharpe’s lawyers are asking both the state and U.S. Supreme Court to commute his sentence because the juror was racially biased, which violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. They also argue that he is intellectually disabled, with an IQ of about 70.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that earlier today, the parole board met separately with the district attorney and relatives of Tharpe’s victim, Jacquelyn Freeman, as well as family, friends, and legal advocates who are asking for clemency for Tharpe.