Thursday, 24 July 2008

Appeals panel won't stop Arthur execution

Breaking News

Appeals panel won't stop Arthur execution

Updated 12:23 p.m.

MOBILE — A federal appeals panel has denied a stay of execution for 66-year-old Thomas Arthur, who faces lethal injection next week in Alabama for a 1982 murder.

Arthur's attorneys claim DNA testing of evidence could clear Arthur, who came within a day of execution in December, but state prosecutors say it would not change the outcome of his three trials.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled in favor of state prosecutors who argued that Arthur was attempting to relitigate issues settled last year by the courts.

The 11th Circuit ruled his latest challenge to lethal injection was moot now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that form of execution in its Kentucky ruling. The panel also refused to block the July 31 execution to allow DNA testing of evidence from his trial.

A separate stay request was pending Thursday before the Alabama Supreme Court.

Arthur came within a day of execution last year when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on Dec. 5, but later declined to hear the appeal.

Arthur, who maintains his innocence, was tried three times for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals, with the first two convictions being overturned on technicalities.

The Innocence Project, an international organization that specializes in DNA exonerations, has supported Arthur's DNA request.

Gov. Bob Riley has refused to order DNA testing in Arthur's case.

Judy Wicker initially told police a burglar had raped her and killed Wicker, but later recanted, saying she had sex with Arthur and paid him $10,000 to kill her husband. Prosecutors alleged that Athur, a work-release inmate at the time, shot Wicker to death in bed so Judy Wicker could get $90,000 in life insurance.

Judy Wicker was given a life sentence for her part in the crime and paroled after 10 years behind bars.

Arthur's pro-bono attorney Suhana Han of New York claims DNA testing could show that Judy Wicker "was telling the truth" when she reported to the police that a burglar had raped her and murdered her husband.

"Without the benefit of DNA testing here, the state of Alabama assumes the intolerable risk of executing an innocent man," Han wrote in a court filing.

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