Georgia has executed a man who was convicted by a juror who later called him a n****r.
Kenneth Fults, 47, was put to death by lethal injection at 7:47 p.m. Tuesday, despite a last minute plea for clemency to both the U.S. Supreme Court and Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Fults, a black man, was convicted of murdering his white neighbor in 1996.
At the time of Fults’ trial, jurors were asked if their views on race would affect their ability to judge the case. Thomas Buffington, a white man, said it would not.
But eight years later, an investigator working on Fults’ appeal interviewed Buffington, who gave the following testimony in a sworn statement:
I don’t know if he (Fults) ever killed anybody, but that (slur) got just what should have happened. Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that (slur) deserved.”
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Fults’ lawyers asked that his execution be stayed until the court heard a case they plan to take up this fall. Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez, who was convicted of attempted sexual assault on a child younger than 15, was found to have been convicted by jurors who made derogatory comments about Mexicans. The court will decide whether racially charged comments by another juror can overcome the need for secrecy in jury deliberations.
“It is only by pure accidents of timing that Mr. Fults now faces imminent execution without any consideration of the pernicious effects of racism on his sentence,” his lawyers wrote. “The jurors in Pena-Rodriguez came forward immediately and Mr. Pena-Rodriguez’s claims were deemed timely filed. In contrast, the juror in Mr. Fults’s case did not speak up until several years after Mr. Fults’s trial, and accordingly Mr. Fults was deemed to have filed his claims too late.”
The Justices did not issue a statement in rejecting Fults’ appeal.