Breaking News December 3, 2007
Innocence Project calls on Alabama governor to stop execution and grant DNA tests
The execution of Tommy Arthur is set for Thursday in Alabama, despite a pending appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Innocence Project’s repeated requests that Gov. Bob Riley stop the execution and order crucial DNA testing that could prove Arthur’s innocence or guilt. The Innocence Project has been requesting DNA testing in the case for several months. Testing would take less than four weeks to complete, and Arthur would pay the costs of testing. If Riley had ordered DNA testing when the Innocence Project first requested it – or as the result of numerous subsequent requests – the state would already have DNA results in the case.
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• In a letter sent today to Gov. Bob Riley, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld and Staff Attorney Olga Akselrod wrote that “allowing an execution to go forward without first conducting DNA testing that could scientifically confirm or refute guilt not only risks putting to death an innocent man, but also does irreversible damage to the public's confidence in the state's criminal justice system and its elected officials.”
Read the full letter here.
• Arthur was convicted in 1982 of killing Troy Wicker, a crime he has always said he didn’t commit. He was allegedly hired to commit the crime by the victim’s wife, who served 10 years in prison for her role but was released shortly after testifying against Arthur in a retrial.
Get background on Tommy Arthur’s conviction and the proposed DNA testing here.
• After the Innocence Project formally asked Riley to stay Arthur’s execution in order to conduct DNA testing, his office asked for guidelines on how to approach requests for post-conviction DNA testing in capital cases. Read the Innocence Project’s November 5 letter to Bryan Taylor, the governor’s policy director, outlining our recommendations for granting testing in capital cases. Tommy Arthur’s case clearly meets this criteria. It has been a month since the Innocence Project sent the guidelines to Taylor, but the governor’s office has failed to follow up on the letter or return repeated calls about it. If Riley had ordered DNA testing as recently as November 5 (months after the Innocence Project first requested testing), the results would already be complete, and serious questions about Arthur’s guilt or innocence could have been resolved.