Friday, 30 November 2007

USA (Alabama) Thomas Douglas Arthur (m), white, aged 65


Note: Please write on behalf of these persons even though
you may not have received the original UA when issued on August
30, 2007.


29 November 2007

Further information on UA 225/07 (30 August 2007) and
follow-up (28 September 2007) -- Death penalty/Legal concern

USA (Alabama) Thomas Douglas Arthur (m), white, aged 65

Thomas Arthur is now scheduled for execution on 6 December
in Alabama. The state is pursuing his execution despite what
appears to be a moratorium on executions in the USA pending
the US Supreme Court's examination of the constitutionality
of lethal injections. In addition, Alabama has not granted
Thomas Arthur's request to be allowed to conduct DNA testing
of evidence relating to the crime.

Thomas Arthur was sentenced to death for the 1982 murder of
Troy Wicker. The victim's wife, Judy Wicker, was also
convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.
She was released on parole after testifying at Thomas
Arthur's 1991 retrial.

At her own trial, Judy Wicker had testified that Thomas
Arthur was not involved in the murder, but that a stranger
had killed her husband, and had also raped her, as she had
told the police. At Arthur's 1991 retrial, she testified
that she, Teresa Rowland and Rowland's boyfriend Theron
McKinney had discussed killing Troy Wicker in early 1981.
She testified that she knew that the murder would take place
on 1 February 1982, that she and Thomas Arthur had gone to
the house together, and that she had agreed to tell the
police that her husband had been murdered by an African
American burglar. She said that she collected $90,000 in
insurance proceeds, and that she paid $10,000 to Arthur and
$6,000 to Rowland, and gave a car and jewelry to McKinney
for their assistance in the murder. Teresa Rowland and
Theron McKinney were apparently not investigated for their
alleged role in the crime. Neither of them was prosecuted.

Thomas Arthur maintains his innocence of the murder. No
physical evidence links him to the crime. Hair samples and
fingerprints from the crime scene were tested, but did not
match Thomas Arthur's. He was convicted on disputed
circumstantial evidence and the testimony of Judy Wicker,
who had committed perjury at either her trial or Arthur's

On appeal in 2002, two affidavits were filed which
contradict Judy Wicker's testimony that Thomas Arthur was
with her on the morning of the murder. The affidavits,
signed by Alphonso High and Ray Melson, stated that he had
visited them that morning. The state has not disputed that
these affidavits, if true, establish that Thomas Arthur was
about an hour's drive away from the Wickers' home at the
time of the murder. However, the state obtained its own
affidavits from High and Melson contradicting their original
statements. Thomas Arthur's lawyers raised critical
questions about the circumstances under which these
witnesses retreated from their original testimonies and
requested a hearing to resolve the factual disputes; their
request was denied. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the
11th Circuit ruled that the disputed affidavits were not
sufficient to meet the threshold for a federal hearing on
new evidence of innocence under US law.

In support of his argument that he should be allowed back
into court for a hearing on his innocence claim, Thomas
Arthur is seeking to have modern DNA testing conducted on
various pieces of evidence related to the crime, including
Judy Wicker's bloodstained clothing, the rape evidence, and
hair samples. Such testing, it is argued, could establish
that someone other than him was at the crime scene, thereby
discrediting Judy Wicker's trial testimony against Arthur.

On 5 November 2007, the Innocence Project, which represents
inmates seeking DNA testing to prove their innocence, wrote
to the Alabama Governor's Office responding to its request
for advice on how to approach requests for post-conviction
DNA testing in capital cases. In its letter to the
Governor's Policy Director, the Innocence Project outlined
its guidance and urged the Governor to grant DNA testing in
Thomas Arthur's case. Its letter stated: "We believe that
the Arthur case easily fits within the category of cases
where DNA testing should be granted... In fact, DNA testing
has the potential to conclusively prove that Mr Arthur was
not the perpetrator of this crime and to identify the real

Alabama has rescheduled Thomas Arthur's execution despite
the fact that there appears to be a de facto national
moratorium on executions in the USA pending the US Supreme
Court's consideration of the constitutionality of the use of
lethal injection as an execution method (see Pause for
thought: Another lethal injection halted by US Supreme
While Amnesty International expects that either the 11th Circuit
Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court will stay the
execution on the lethal injection issue, there is no
absolute guarantee of this outcome at this stage.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as
quickly as possible:
- explaining that you are not seeking to condone the manner
of Troy Wicker's death;
- noting that Thomas Arthur was convicted on the basis of
circumstantial evidence and the testimony of Judy Wicker,
who has committed perjury and was providing testimony in
return for assistance with her parole bid;
- expressing concern that Thomas Arthur has not had a
judicial hearing on evidence of his innocence, and that the
State of Alabama is resisting modern DNA testing of evidence
from the crime;
- calling on the governor to allow such testing to take
place, noting that a number of errors have been uncovered in
capital cases throughout the USA, some as a result of DNA
- expressing concern that Alabama set a new execution date
in this case despite moves across the USA to halt executions
pending the US Supreme Court's consideration of the lethal
injection issue;
- opposing the execution of Thomas Arthur, and noting that
in contrast to his death sentence Judy Wicker served 10
years in prison having been convicted of the murder, and
that two other people implicated in the murder were
apparently not even investigated.

Governor Bob Riley
State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36130
Fax: 1 334 353 0004
Email, via Governor's website at:
Salutation: Dear Governor


Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement
that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including
contact information and stop action date (if applicable).
Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566


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