Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dueling affidavits on eve of Arthur execution

Dueling affidavits on eve of Arthur execution

7/30/2008, 12:13 p.m. CDT
The Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — On the eve of Thomas Arthur's scheduled execution, attorneys were in court with dueling affidavits — one from a convicted murderer who claims he's guilty of the killing that sent Arthur to death row, and another disputing that claim.

The legal crossfire came as the 66-year-old Arthur faces lethal injection at 6 p.m. (CDT) Thursday at Holman Prison. Convicted of the Feb. 1, 1982, killing of Troy Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals, Arthur has twice come within a day of execution before winning court delays.

Arthur's attorneys, who claim DNA testing could exonerate Arthur, sought a stay of execution from Gov. Bob Riley and the courts by using an affidavit from convicted murderer Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving a life sentence at St. Clair Correctional Facility.

In a sworn statement Monday to Arthur's attorneys, Gilbert claimed he killed Wicker when he was 17. But Wicker's widow, Judy Wicker, who served a prison sentence for hiring the killer, said in an affidavit to the attorney general's investigators that she never met Gilbert. She once again accused Arthur of the killing.

"None of Gilbert's allegations are true. I do not know anyone named Bobby Gilbert," she said in a sworn statement Monday. "I hired and paid money to Thomas Arthur, not Bobby Gilbert, to kill Troy Wicker."

Attorney General Troy King also dismissed Gilbert's statement and recommended to Riley that the execution not be delayed.

Arthur's attorneys on Tuesday turned to the Jefferson County Circuit Court, offering the Gilbert affidavit as new evidence in a bid for a hearing. The court did not immediately rule. King's office urged the court to dismiss it.

"The presentation of Gilbert's affidavit is yet another example of Arthur presenting information that is fabricated and incredible," Assistant Attorney General Jasper Roberts told the court in a filing Wednesday.

Challenging Gilbert's credibility, Roberts noted that of the 23 years Gilbert has been in prison, he has spent about 20 in administrative segregation for violating prison rules and regulations. He said Gilbert has convictions for two murders, an escape, an assault on another inmate with the intent to commit murder.

In trial testimony, Judy Wicker said she paid Arthur $10,000 to kill her husband in an insurance scheme. She served 10 years before her early release from a life sentence.

The Alabama Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier denied Arthur's bid to delay the execution so that DNA testing of evidence could be done. A final request for a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court is expected by Thursday.

Prosecutors point out that every court that has reviewed Arthur's case concluded that favorable DNA test results will not establish his innocence. Arthur was tried three times for the Wicker killing, and the first two convictions were overturned on technicalities.

The New York-based Innocence Project, an international organization that specializes in DNA exonerations, also has supported Arthur's DNA request.

Arthur's execution would be the first in Alabama since the high court, in April, upheld the use of lethal injection.

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