Wednesday, 5 December 2007

"The time for inaction is now at an end," Peter Neufeld,

Supreme Court doesn't stop Thursday execution

Tuesday, December 04, 2007
From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON - Convicted killer Thomas D. Arthur got no help from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, and came a day closer to Thursday's scheduled execution with no promise of relief.

The court had indicated it would announce Monday if it would hear an appeal regarding whether Arthur waited too long to challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection, but it was not on the list of decisions released.

In a separate request also pending before the Supreme Court, Arthur asked for a stay until the court rules on a Kentucky case in which Death Row inmates argue that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court has not indicated when it might rule on that request.

Also on Monday, the advocacy group The Innocence Project urged Gov. Bob Riley to issue a stay and order modern DNA testing of evidence in the case.

"The time for inaction is now at an end," Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the organization, wrote in a letter to Riley. "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."

The Innocence Project advocates the use of DNA testing for Death Row inmates, and has claimed such testing could prove Arthur innocent. Riley delayed Arthur's execution once already, to allow the state to change its execution procedure, but has refused to halt it.

Lower courts said that Arthur, convicted in a 1982 murder-for-hire case, unreasonably delayed filing his challenge to the way lethal injection is carried out in Alabama by waiting until just four months before his scheduled execution.

The issue of time limits is a side issue to a larger debate before the Supreme Court over whether the three-drug form of lethal injection used in many states violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

A federal judge ruled that Arthur knew no later than August 2006 of the issue over pain in lethal injection.

Arthur filed his challenge last May, the month after Alabama officials asked the state Supreme Court to set his execution date.

Arthur was convicted in the 1982 killing of Troy Wicker, based on the testimony of the victim's wife. She testified that she had sex with Arthur and paid him $10,000 to kill her husband, who was shot in the face as he lay in bed.

At the time of his arrest, Arthur was serving a sentence at a prison work release center for an earlier murder.

Arthur's attorney, Suhana Han of New York, said a recent decision by the state of Alabama to change the lethal injection protocol amounted to the state conceding its execution procedure was deficient. On the Net

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