More than three hours after Keith Leroy Tharpe's scheduled execution time, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the proceedings pending a review of some lower court rulings in the case.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Gregory C. Dozier, accompanied by the departments general counsel, Jennifer Ammons, told media witnesses of the high court's decision at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Ammons said the justices didn't say what lower court rulings they wanted to review. But Ammons said the justices plan to put Tharpe's case on next month's court calendar. The first day of October is Sunday.
In addition, Ammons said the justices didn't indicate how soon they'd review Tharpe's appeal or when they'd hand down their decision.
Tharpe had been scheduled for lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson. Tharpe was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering his sister-in-law Jacquelin Freeman in September 1990. His case was tried in Jones County Superior Court.
In their appeals, Tharpe's lawyers contended that Tharpe suffered from crack addition at the time of the killing and that he sought redemption through faith while in prison and that some members of Freeman's family supported clemency.
The lawyers also listed statements allegedly made by Barnie Gattie, one of the jurors who convicted Tharpe and sentenced him to death.
They said in the appeal that Gattie often used racial slurs to describe Tharpe and that Gattie acknowledged that he agreed to sentence Tharpe to death because he was black.
Gattie has died since then.