No, the Courts Are Not Blind With Respect to Race
This is an incredible story. It starts with an individual sentenced to death in a capital murder case. Here is what one juror stated under oath after the trial.
Seven years later, one of the jurors, Barney Gattie, signed an affidavit explaining his reasoning. He said he had drawn a distinction between Mr. Tharpe and his victim, both of whom were black.
“The Freemans are what I would call a nice Black family,” Mr. Gattie wrote. “In my experience I have observed that there are two types of black people. 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers.”
“Because I knew the victim and her husband’s family and knew them all to be good black folks, I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did,” Mr. Gattie wrote.
“After studying the Bible,” he added, “I have wondered if black people even have souls.”
WASHINGTON — Saying that a capital trial in Georgia may have been marred by a juror’s racism, the Supreme Court on Monday gave a death row inmate there a fresh chance to argue that he should receive a new trial.
The court’s opinion was brief and unsigned. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch, filed a lengthy dissent accusing the majority of “ceremonial hand-wringing.”
“In bending the rules here to show its concern for a black capital inmate, the court must think it is showing its concern for racial justice,” Justice Thomas wrote. “It is not.”
Mr. Tharpe was bound to lose in the long run given the difficulty of challenging state capital convictions in federal court, Justice Thomas wrote. He added that Mr. Gattie had been drinking when he signed the affidavit and later submitted a second one saying he had not voted for the death penalty based on Mr. Tharpe’s race.
“The court must be disturbed by the racist rhetoric” in the first affidavit, Justice Thomas wrote, “and must want to do something about it. But the court’s decision is no profile in moral courage.”
“By remanding this case to the court of appeals for a useless do-over, the court is not doing Tharpe any favors,” he added. “And its unusual disposition of his 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 hand-wringing, I respectfully dissent.”