Thomas Arthur Almost Executed Thursday Despite Proof of Innocence
By Michelle Brunet
Thomas Arthur was scheduled to be executed Thursday at 6pm. On Wednesday, luckily, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the stay granted to him by a federal appeals court last week. I say luckily because, not only has Arthur always claimed his innocence (which, lets face it, might be said by those who are guilty as well), but key factors have come to light since his original conviction that suggest he did not commit the crime. His defense team wants to foot the bill for a crucial DNA test that could affirm his innocence, but have so far been denied. It makes me question whether Arthur’s criminal past has been held against him causing a miscarriage of justice throughout all his legal and court system proceedings for nearly 30 years.
It may surprise you that the temporary suspension of Arthur’s execution has nothing to do with his possible innocence, but for the manner he was to be put to death. His defence attorneys requested a stay because of the cruel nature of the three-drug lethal injection process that was planned. Specifically, opponents to the controversial mode of lethal injection argue that when pentobarbital is injected first it does not effectively render the body unconscious thus leading to potentially high levels of torture and pain.
Arthur has avoided this fatal fate - a punishment sentenced to him when he was convicted for the murder of Troy Wicker - for at least the immediate future. In 1982, Wicker was found dead in his Muscle Shoals, Alabama home, with a gunshot wound to his right eye. Those who believe Arthur is guilty tell that he was hired by the victim’s wife, Judy Wicker, to carry out the murder. Judy had been convicted for her part in the murder which resulted in her collecting $90,000 in life insurance.
According to Thomas Arthur Fight For Life, Judy had been sentenced to life in prison, but was released after serving ten years for issuing a statement condemning Arthur. The website adds that in seven previous statements, she had not once implicated Arthur.
In 2008, Bobby Ray Gilbert confessed that he, not Arthur, murdered Troy Wicker. Gilbert stated that he had been having an affair with Judy and that she had told him her husband was physically abusive. Gilbert is currently serving life in prison for another murder.
Additionally, no physical or DNA evidence links Arthur to the crime scene where Wicker was found dead. Basic DNA tests were conducted on a wig, asserted to be worn by the killer, but the results were inconclusive and yet did not link Arthur or Gilbert. Arthur’s attorneys have asked to pay for a more specialized DNA test (a mini-STR analysis) on the wig to affirm their client’s innocence, but the State has refused the request.
At the time that Wicker was murdered, Arthur was serving time at the Decatur Work-Release Centre for a second-degree murder conviction. The State claims Arthur left the centre and drove the 45 miles to Muscle Shoals. Is it possible that Arthur’s past murder conviction led the prosecutors and the jury to convict him for a murder he very well may not be responsible for?
Earlier this week, Tom Smith (TimesDaily.com) did a piece describing Sherrie Stone’s fears that her father Arthur would be put to death Thursday. Since his 1983 conviction, he has been granted four stays but she felt that this time he would not be so lucky. “If a confession and DNA testing that doesn’t match him won’t work, I don’t expect it to be stopped this time,” Stone shared.
On Wednesday, Stone’s prayers were answered; but will her hopes, of the courts ruling out every doubt before executing her father, be realized? “If we are to continue executions in this country, laws must be put in place in which DNA testing must be allowed at all stages of the process. There is a chance we are executing innocent people. I know because my father is one of those people,” expressed Stone.
If you believe that the State of Alabama should allow for a more specialized DNA test in the case of Thomas Arthur, you can send a message to Governor Bentley directly from the Innocence Project.