Friday, September 26, 2008

News Update: Alabama Supreme Court denies AG's request to set another execution date for Thomas D. Arthur

Originally published by The Birmingham News

Thursday, September 25, 2008 Stan DielNews staff writer

The Alabama Supreme Court has denied a request from Attorney General Troy King to set another execution date for convicted killer Thomas D. Arthur.

In a 6-2 decision Tuesday, the court ruled the state must wait for a lower court to determine whether Arthur will get access to DNA evidence.

Arthur has on three occasions come within a day of being executed for the 1982-murder-for-hire killing of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals.

Just days before he was scheduled to be executed on July 31, another inmate claimed he, not Arthur, was the killer, and the state Supreme Court blocked the execution a day before it was to happen. Arthur's attorneys have asked for access to evidence in the case they say can be tested to determine whether the other inmate's story is credible.

That appeal is pending in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Wicker was shot through the right eye as he slept, and his wife, Judy Wicker, initially told authorities a burglar raped her and killed her husband.

But Wicker was convicted in the crime, and while in prison changed her story. She claimed she paid Arthur, a work-release inmate with whom she was having an affair, to kill her husband so she could collect life insurance proceeds. Arthur stood trial three times - the first two convictions were overturned on technicalities - and has always maintained his innocence. Wicker was granted early release in return for her testimony.

Arthur's case has long been championed by human rights activists including Amnesty International and the Innocence Project, which advocates DNA testing of evidence for Death Row inmates.

Arthur's attorneys and attorneys with the Innocence Project have asked for access to evidence including an afro wig that Judy Wicker testified Arthur wore at the time of the murder, and that the inmate who confessed in July, Bobby Ray Gilbert, also claims to have worn.

They also want access to a rape kit collected after the crime, which they say could prove Gilbert's story and exonerate Arthur. The state has said it can't locate the rape kit.

Gilbert is serving a life sentence at St. Clair Correctional Facility for stabbing another inmate to death in a dispute over a carton of cigarettes.

Efforts to reach Arthur's attorneys on Wednesday were not successful.


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