Chamblee54

The Juror Who Said The N-Word

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on September 27, 2022


This is a repost from 2017. Keith Tharpe is scheduled to die Tuesday night. There is little doubt that he is guilty. One problem are some *intemperate* comments by a juror, Barnie Gattie. Keith Tharpe died of natural causes January 26, 2020.

“The crime occurred on September 25, 1990. Tharpe was arrested the same day. He was tried on January 2 through January 10, 1991.” Mr. Gattie was interviewed by attorneys in 1998.

Mr. Gattie was interviewed by attorneys during the appeals process. He made some comments that featured the *n word*. (This word will be spelled out when quoting court documents. If you don’t like this, you are encouraged to skip over the text, and look at the pictures.) The corporate media has responded with sensational headlines, like A Black Man Convicted By a Racist Juror Is About to Be Executed. You should never neglect an opportunity to call Georgia racist.

When looking at these articles, PG noted different versions of what Mr. Gattie said. He tried to find a copy of the original statement. It was on page fifteen of this court document.

“At the May 28, 1998 state habeas evidentiary hearing, Tharpe tendered affidavits from several jurors, including Barney Gattie. In his affidavit, Gattie stated: “I . . . knew the girl who was killed, Mrs. Freeman. Her husband and his family have lived in Jones [C]ounty a long time. The Freemans are what I would call a nice Black family. In my experience I have observed that there are two types of black people. 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers. For example, some of them who hang around our little store act up and carry on. I tell them, “nigger, you better straighten up or get out of here fast.” My wife tells me I am going to be shot by one of them one day if I don’t quit saying that. I am an upfront, plainspoken man, though. Like I said, the Freemans were nice black folks. If they had been the type Tharpe is, then picking between life or death for Tharpe wouldn’t have mattered so much. My feeling is, what would be the difference. As it was, 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. Some of the jurors voted for death because they felt that Tharpe should be an example to other blacks who kill blacks, but that wasn’t my reason. The others wanted blacks to know they weren’t going to get away with killing each other. After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls. Integration started in Genesis. I think they were wrong. For example, look at O.J. Simpson. That white woman wouldn’t have been killed if she hadn’t have married that black man.”

Subsequently, the state habeas court allowed the parties to depose eleven of the jurors who still lived in Georgia. The depositions were taken over a two day period (October 1 and 2, 1998) in the presence of the court. At his deposition, Gattie testified that he consumed alcohol every weekend. He stated that he had been drinking alcohol on the Saturday he first spoke with representatives from the Georgia Resource Center. When they returned on Memorial Day with the affidavit for him to sign, he had again been drinking. He testified that he had consumed a twelve pack of beer and a few drinks of whiskey before signing the affidavit. Gattie stated he was not told what the affidavit was going to be used for, he did not read the affidavit, and when the affidavit was read to him, he did not pay attention. He complained that the affidavit was “taken all out of proportion,” or taken “[o]ut of context” and “was misconstrued.” (According to the Georgia Resource Center representatives who interviewed him, they informed Gattie who they were and the reason for their visit, and Gattie did not appear alcohol impaired.)

Gattie testified that he is not “against integration” or “against blacks.” He claimed to think African Americans “are hardworking people” and no more violent than other groups of individuals. Gattie stated that he used the term “nigger,” but not as a racial slur. Instead, he used it describe both white and black people who are “no good,” who do not work, or who commit crimes. Gattie also testified that race was not an issue at deliberations and he never used the term “nigger” during deliberations. In addition to Gattie, the other ten jurors who were deposed testified that Tharpe’s race was not discussed during deliberations, race played no part in their deliberations, no one used racial slurs during deliberations, and racial animus or bias was not a part of the deliberations. Tharpe tendered an affidavit from Tracy Simmons, the only juror who was not deposed, and he did not allege that race played any part in their deliberations or that anyone expressed racial animus or bias during deliberations. Respondent also submitted an affidavit from Gattie in which he stated he did not vote to impose the death penalty because of Tharpe’s race. Instead, he stated he voted for a death sentence because of “the evidence presented” and Tharpe’s lack of “remorse.” In this affidavit, Gattie again distanced himself from the statements shown in the affidavit he signed for Tharpe’s state habeas counsel. He claimed “parts of what he said [were] left out of the statement and other parts were written out of context.”

One thing not mentioned by the corporate media was the fact that Mr. Gattie was drunk when he made the statement. Why would the attorney’s continue with the interview if they knew Mr. Gattie was intoxicated? Did the attorneys lead on Mr. Gattie, and put words in his mouth? How was the affadavit presented to Mr. Gattie for his approval? Mr. Gattie later claimed he “… didn’t pay much attention when the affidavit was read to him. He said many of his statements “were taken out of context and simply not accurate.” He signed the defense affidavit because he “just wanted to get rid of them.” Were these attorneys looking for the truth, or trying to get a drunken old man to say something inappropriate, so they could get Mr. Tharpe’s sentence commuted?

There is no way to know what went on in the jury room twenty six years ago. The guilt of Mr. Tharpe was evident. Some would say the murder was not heinous enough to justify the death penalty. The jury was ten white people, and two black people. Murderpedia has details on the selection of the jury. As in most death penalty cases, there is talk about jury selection during the appeals. There was no way to know, when selecting Barney Gattie, that he would drunkenly use the n-word while talking to an attorney, seven years after the trial.

Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Many of the photographs were taken in North Platte, Nebraska. John Vachon took the pictures in October, 1938. UPDATE SCOTUS issued a ruling on the case January 8, 2018, with a dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas.

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