Saturday, 19 July 2008

Letter to Governor Riley - Thomas Arthur

Governor Bob Riley

I am concerned that the State of Alabama has set a new execution date in the case of Thomas Arthur despite the fact that there has been no DNA testing in the face of serious doubt about his guilt. Arthur was sentenced to death for the murder of Troy Wicker in 1982, yet maintains his innocence.

Thomas Arthur was first charged with the murder of Troy Wicker in 1982. He was convicted and sentenced to death twice, but both times his conviction was overturned because of improper admission of evidence. Judy Wicker, Troy Wicker’s wife, was also convicted of the murder and she was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1982.

At Arthur’s third trial in 1991, the state’s main witness was Judy Wicker whose testimony the prosecution sought in return for assistance with her parole bid. Judy Wicker was paroled about a year after Arthur’s 1991 retrial after serving 10 years in prison. In an apparent conflict of interest, the prosecutor of this second retrial had been Judy Wicker’s attorney in the negotiations for her testimony.

At her own trial, in 1982, Judy Wicker had testified that Thomas Arthur was not involved in the murder, but at Arthur’s 1991 retrial, she told a substantially different story, testifying that she and two others hired Arthur to commit the murder.

No physical evidence linked Thomas Arthur to the crime. Hair samples and fingerprints from the crime scene were tested, but did not match Thomas Arthur’s. He was convicted solely on disputed circumstantial evidence and the testimony of Judy Wicker, who clearly committed perjury, either during the 1991 retrial or during her own trial, and who testified in exchange for assistance with her parole bid.

For months, Thomas Arthur has been seeking to have modern DNA testing conducted on various pieces of evidence related to the crime, including Judy Wicker’s bloodstained clothing, the rape evidence, and hair samples. To date, such testing has not occurred.

While I have tremendous sympathy for the family and friends of Troy Wicker, I find this case extremely troubling, given the state’s reliance on the testimony of a witness who clearly perjured herself at some point, and given the huge disparities in sentencing, where one defendant is sentenced to death while another serves just 10 years, and two others implicated in the murder are not even investigated.

Governor Riley, as you may know, more than 100 wrongful convictions in capital cases in the USA have been uncovered since 1977 and DNA testing has played a substantial role in more than a dozen cases. I strongly urge you to demonstrate your respect for justice and human life by doing everything in your power to stop the execution of Thomas Arthur, and, in order to obtain the truth, to ensure that the requested DNA testing is allowed to take place. Thank you for your time and attention to this serious matter.


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