Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Governor Riley Must Insist on Review of all DNA Evidence Before Alabama Executes Thomas Arthur, Says Amnesty International


Amnesty International USA Press Release

Governor Riley Must Insist on Review of all DNA Evidence Before Alabama
Executes Thomas Arthur, Says Amnesty International

Alabama Governor Bob Riley should halt the planned September 27 execution
of Thomas Arthur, a potentially innocent man who has not had a judicial
hearing on evidence that could raise serious doubts about his guilt,
Amnesty International said today. The organization is mobilizing its
membership across the country and around the world to petition Governor
Riley to ensure modern DNA testing is performed on evidence from the crime
scene that has not yet been tested -- before Thomas Arthur loses his life.

Thomas Arthur was sentenced to death for the murder of Troy Wicker in
1982. Arthur has been on death row for much of the past quarter of a
century. To this day, no physical evidence links him to the crime. Hair
samples and fingerprints from the crime scene were tested and did not
match Arthur's. Alabama has so far resisted Arthur's request for DNA
testing on other materials connected to the murder.

"Given the many unanswered questions in this case, it would be absurd for
Alabama not to test all the DNA," said Larry Cox, executive director of
Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "When Alabama refuses to examine
available evidence, it might as well say 'we don't care if we actually get
it right.'"

Troy Wicker, 35, was found dead on February 1, 1982 in his home in Muscle
Shoals, having been killed by a single shot through his eye. His wife Judy
Wicker told police that she had come home to find an African American man
in the house (not Thomas Arthur, who is white), that he had raped her,
knocked her unconscious, and shot her husband. Judy Wicker was charged
with the murder of her husband, allegedly to collect insurance, and was
convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Thomas Arthur was charged
with shooting Troy Wicker and was also tried in 1982. The state alleged
that Judy Wicker hired Arthur to kill her husband. Arthur was sentenced to
death -- twice -- but both times his conviction was overturned due to
improper admission of evidence.

The prosecutor later approached the state parole board to inquire about
the possibility of Judy Wicker obtaining early release in exchange for her
testimony against Thomas Arthur at his retrial. At the parole board
meeting, Judy Wicker was represented by a lawyer who was subsequently
hired as a prosecutor and represented the state at Thomas Arthur's 3rd
trial, which began in 1991. At the third trial, the state's main witness
as Judy Wicker -- the prosecutor's former client -- who was soon paroled.

Judy Wicker testified that Thomas Arthur was the killer, directly
contradicting her previous testimony that an African American man had
killed her husband. Arthur was convicted and sentenced to death. He is
seeking to have modern DNA testing conducted on various pieces of
evidence, including Judy Wicker's bloodstained clothing, the rape evidence
and hair samples. Arthur has also filed a suit challenging the
constitutionality of Alabama's lethal injection procedure and contending
that the state's lethal injection procedure constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment. "Thomas Arthur was convicted only on circumstantial evidence
and the testimony of a woman who was helping her own parole bid -- yet
Alabama is still resisting efforts to establish the truth," said Sue
Gunawardena-Vaughn, Director of AIUSA's Program to Abolish the Death
Penalty. "Serious evidence in capital cases should not go unexamined."

More than 120 wrongful convictions in capital cases in the United States
have been uncovered since 1977; DNA testing has played a substantial role
in more than a dozen of those cases.

To read Amnesty International's more extensive examination of the case,
please see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR511372007

(source: Amnesty International USA)

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