“If they had been the type Tharpe is, then picking between life and death for Tharpe wouldn’t have mattered so much,” Gattie said. “My feeling is, what would be the difference?”
Gattie, who was white, said he voted to sentence Tharpe to death because he “wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category.” However, Gattie later backed off that statement.
Gattie is now deceased.
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In a 6-3 decision in 2017, U.S. Supreme Court justices said they were concerned Gattie was racist and only voted for the death penalty because Tharpe was black, sending the case back to a lower court on appeal.
Still, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against Tharpe's appeal, saying it could not retroactively apply a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court opinion allowing courts to consider evidence of racial animus by jurors.
The Georgia Department of Corrections has not yet responded to a media request to officially confirm the inmate's death.
Marcia Widder, one of Tharpe’s lawyers at the Georgia Resource Center, said the courts’ refusal to consider the impact of Gattie’s views “a stain on the judicial system” and calls for more effort to eliminate racism in the criminal court system.