We have two updates regarding the execution of Arthur Thomas. The first is a press release from Alabama Governor Bob Riley.
OFFICE OF GOVERNOR BOB RILEY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 27, 2007
Governor Riley Issues 45-Day Stay of Execution
MONTGOMERY – Governor Bob Riley granted a brief stay of execution to Thomas Arthur, a death row inmate who was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Governor made the decision to grant a stay of 45 days and met with Commissioner Richard Allen of the Alabama Department of Corrections on Thursday morning.
“The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty and he will be executed for his crime. The decision to grant a brief stay is being made only because the state is changing its lethal injection protocol, and this will allow sufficient time for the Department of Corrections to make that change,” Governor Riley said. “It
is my desire that, as soon as the stay has expired, justice will be administered to Thomas Arthur. I have encouraged the Attorney General to make a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court for a new date of execution as soon as possible.”
Second is an editorial published on September 25, 2007 by The Birmingham News.
Riley fails test, again
THE ISSUE: Once again, Gov. Bob Riley has refused to order DNA testing that could shed light on a death-penalty case. This is a pattern that needs to be broken.
Unless courts step in or something else intervenes, the state of Alabama will execute Thomas Arthur. This much we know: That something else won't be Gov. Bob Riley.
For the second time in as many months, Riley has refused to delay an inmate's execution to allow for DNA testing that might shine light on the crime.
Riley's refusal is beyond disappointing, and it's beyond logic. The testing could have been ordered two weeks ago without even requiring a delay of the execution, according to the Innocence Project.
While there is some evidence implicating Arthur of involvement in the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, there are certainly reasons to wonder if the crime went down as prosecutors claim. Even Wicker's family wonders what really happened and has expressed support for DNA testing that could shed some light on Wicker's death.
"I would like to see this evidence subjected to DNA testing," Peggy Wicker Jones said in an Aug. 21 statement. "I would like to have as much information as possible about what happened on the day my brother Troy was murdered."
The Innocence Project, the famed New York organization whose DNA work has cleared more than 200 inmates across the country, doesn't take the position Arthur is innocent. But it does argue the evidence in Arthur's case should be subjected to the best scientific testing available.
DNA testing, which had not been developed when Arthur was tried, might merely confirm his guilt. But it might also implicate someone else, someone who has so far not been held accountable for the slaying. Either way, it's a win.
Governors in other states have ordered DNA testing in similar death penalty cases. Among them was a former Texas governor named George W. Bush, as well as his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
But not Riley.
In a statement criticizing Alabama's governor, the Innocence Project pointed out that 15 of those cleared nationwide by DNA testing were on Death Row and that some of them were days away from execution when they were exonerated.
"If any of those 15 people had been in Alabama, they would be dead today," Innocence Project co-director Peter Neufeld said last Wednesday.
Neufeld called it "unconscionable" that Riley won't insist on using the best science to determine the truth before putting inmates to death. Neufeld is right.
Before inflicting a punishment that can't be undone, the state of Alabama should be eager to order DNA testing in cases where any biological evidence is available. Indeed, such testing in old cases should be available by law, as it is already in 42 states.
Unfortunately, in Alabama, the test rests in the hands of the governor. Once again, Riley has failed that test.