Unless the U.S. Supreme Court granted Keith Leroy Tharpe a stay of execution, the 59-year-old death row inmate would have been put to death this evening at 7 PM at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson, GA. The state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles initially denied Tharpe clemency following a hearing yesterday.

After declining to spare Tharpe’s life, the parole board offered no reason for its decision, which the New York Times called “consistent” with the parole board’s past decision-making practices.

Nevertheless, WRAL.com reported in an update at 10.45pm that, "The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a temporary stay of execution for a Georgia man who killed his sister-in-law 27 years ago."

Condemned inmate handed death sentence for 1991 fatal shooting

Tharpe was scheduled to be executed by Lethal Injection for his 1991 conviction of the shooting death of his brother’s wife.

Tharpe’s sister-in-law, Jaquelyn Freeman – whose first name is spelled Jaqueline in information declassified by the parole board – was riding in a car with Tharpe’s estranged wife on their way to work.

Tharpe blocked their passageway, using a truck he borrowed the same morning. He demanded they exit the car they were riding in, while he was armed with a shotgun. He shot Freeman to death.

At the closed-door hearing before the parole board yesterday, Tharpe’s supporters – 20 in all – argued for granting the condemned inmate mercy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. His supporters included his granddaughter and a daughter, the Guardian reported.

Lawyers raised juror’s racial bias in appealing to parole board

Tharpe’s attorneys, from the Georgia Resource Center, highlighted the Racial Bias of now-deceased juror Barney Gattie, arguing that his racist beliefs tainted Tharpe’s conviction.

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Gattie adulterated the truth when he was asked whether he could be fair and impartial during jury selection. Though he affirmed that he would be a suitable juror, his true beliefs surfaced during post-sentencing interviews, as his lawyers were preparing a habeas corpus petition to determine if Tharpe was lawfully incarcerated.

Throughout Gattie’s interview with lawyers, the juror who had voted for the death sentence used the “n” word in reference to Tharpe. In 1998, Gattie signed an affidavit under oath, stating, “I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category” should receive “the electric chair for what he did.” Georgia hasn’t used the electric chair, however, since 2001.

The jury responsible for convicting Tharpe was comprised of 12 members and only two were black. The jurors voted unanimously to give Tharpe capital punishment. In Georgia, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict to sentence a defendant to death.

Attorneys ask high court to weigh recent ruling on state law violating Sixth Amendment

The nation’s highest court has, according to WRAL now ruled on whether to spare Tharpe’s life.

Gattie’s racist beliefs undermine the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a defendant the right to a fair trial.

Tharpe’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court justices to also weigh its own March 2017 ruling in ruling in Pena-Rodriguez v Colorado and decided in favor of granting Tharpe a reprieve from capital punishment. The high court handed down a 5-3 decision in March that takes precedence over laws – such as one in Georgia – that is a direct contradiction to the Sixth Amendment. Georgia has a law that prevented attorneys from previously raising objections to Tharpe’s death sentence on the grounds that a juror had clearly conveyed racial bias. The ruling in Pena-Rodriguez v Colorado is that such a law, as Georgia’s, violates the Sixth Amendment.

Until the state of Georgia knew the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, preparations were proceeding for the execution of Tharpe. The state planned to deliver death by lethal injection, using pentobarbital, which is a barbiturate. At this time it is not known how long the temporary stay of execution is for.