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Death row inmate dies of natural causes

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia death row inmate whose planned execution was halted in September 2017 by the U.S. Supreme Court after his lawyers argued his death sentence was tainted by a juror’s racial bias has died, according to the state Department of Corrections

Keith “Bo” Tharpe, 61, died of natural causes Friday, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joan Heath confirmed in an email Sunday.

In 1991, a jury convicted Tharpe of murder in the September 1990 slaying of his sister-in-law, Jacquelyn Freeman, and sentenced him to death.

In interviews with Tharpe’s legal team years later, juror Barney Gattie, who has since died, freely used the N-word.

“In my experience I have observed that there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. (N-words),” Gattie said, according to a sworn statement he signed in 1998.

Freeman and her husband’s family were “good black folks,” Gattie said but Tharpe, “who wasn’t in the “good” black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” He went on to say that his study of the Bible had led him to question “if black people even have souls.”

Tharpe had been scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2017, but the appointed time came and went with legal challenges still pending. More than three hours later, just after 10:30 that night, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a temporary stay.

A few months later in January 2018, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta — which had already rejected Tharpeís appeal – for further consideration. The 11th Circuit in April 2018 again rejected Tharpeís appeal, and he appealed to the Supreme Court again.

The high court last March declined to consider the appeal.

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