Friday, 7 December 2007

Top court holds off Arthur's execution

Top court holds off Arthur's execution
Last Updated:December 05. 2007 11:49PM
Published: December 06. 2007 3:30AM
For the third time since he was sent to death row in 1983, convicted killer Tommy Arthur was spared from execution Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in the execution just over 24 hours before Arthur was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

The stay was granted just before 4 p.m. Wednesday and was based on a petition by Arthur's attorney that challenges Alabama's method of execution by lethal injection. The Supreme Court has already stated it is reviewing a Kentucky challenge on the procedure.

Clay Crenshaw, head of the Alabama Attorney General's Capital Litigation section, said Wednesday's action puts everything on hold until the Kentucky case is decided. He said the issue will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2008, and it's likely Arthur won't face execution again until next summer.

The 65-year-old Arthur was convicted three times in connection with the 1982 murder-for-hire scheme to kill Troy Wicker, of Muscle Shoals.

Wednesday's action marks the third time Arthur's execution has been stayed. The most recent reprieve came Sept. 27, when Alabama Gov. Bob Riley postponed the execution for 45 days so the state could review its execution procedure. He also was granted a stay in 2001.

Riley said earlier Wednesday that he had no intention of staying the execution this time.

Arthur's daughter, Sherrie Arthur Stone, was at the state prison in Atmore preparing to spend most of today with her father.

She said she was trying to mentally prepare herself for the scheduled execution.

"It's very draining," she said. "We thought this was going to happen, but there was still doubt and hope that it wouldn't."

She said she had been optimistic all day that the Supreme Court would postpone the execution. "I was assuming the worst and hoping for the best," she said.

Wicker was killed in 1982, shot once in the eye. His widow, Judy, pleaded guilty to murder. She said she paid Arthur $10,000 to kill her husband.

Crenshaw said he and other prosecutors nationwide will be keeping a close eye on the Kentucky case.

"If (the case) is decided in favor of the state (of Kentucky), then (the Supreme Court) could be denying a lot of stays across the country," Crenshaw said.

Stone said while the case remains in limbo, it will give her and her father's attorneys more time to work to get tests done on DNA evidence found at the scene. DNA testing did not exist in 1982 and evidence found was never tested.

"We are going to use this time to focus on the real issue in this case, testing of the DNA evidence," she said.

Tom Smith can be reached at 740-5757 or

No comments: