Arthur denied execution delay
Other inmate confesses to killing; widow disputes it
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 11:12 p.m.
Thomas Douglas Arthur is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday, after the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a stay of execution.
Arthur’s attorney, Suhana Han, filed another motion with the court and Gov. Bob Riley containing the alleged confession.
Han is seeking a stay of execution based on the statement by 43-year-old St. Clair prison inmate Bobby Ray Gilbert, in which he says he killed Troy Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals in 1982, when he was 17.
“I used a .22 sawed-off rifle and shot him in the face,” Gilbert’s alleged confession says. In his affidavit, Gilbert said he first admitted the killing to a friend only last year and attempted to contact Arthur’s lawyers without immediate success.
Arthur asked Riley to stay his execution to give him time for DNA testing. Riley spokeswoman Tara Hutchison had no immediate comment Tuesday.
Arthur’s attorneys also filed for an emergency hearing in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Birmingham, where he was convicted, citing the affidavit as new evidence.
Wicker’s widow, Judy Wicker, who spent 10 years in prison for her husband’s death, testified she had sex with Arthur and then hired him for $10,000 to kill her husband. Judy Wicker said the confession was false and maintains that Arthur is guilty.
Attorney General Troy King released a three-page affidavit by Judy Wicker stating she doesn’t know Gilbert and that Arthur killed her husband for money.
“I was at home when Troy Wicker was shot to death, and saw the individual who shot him,” her affidavit said. “That individual was Thomas Arthur, not Bobby Gilbert.”
In two trials, Judy Wicker said a black male assaulted and raped her and killed her husband. In her third trial, she said she hired Arthur to kill her husband. Judy Wicker could not be reached for comment. King spokesman Chris Bence declined to release contact information for her, saying he was prohibited from releasing such information from victim’s files.
Judy Wicker also said in her statement that Arthur’s daughter, Sherrie Stone, “had visited me and pressured me to falsely” accuse another man of “committing Troy’s murder,” in exchange for money from any lawsuit Arthur would file for wrongful conviction.
Stone disputes that characterization, saying Judy Wicker either lied at the first two trials or lied at the third. “How can we believe anything she said?” she said Tuesday. “What I told her was, if she would just tell the truth, if it’s money she wanted we’d try to help her. She said it would jeopardize her freedom. She got out of prison on a deal.”
Arthur was tried three times for the Wicker killing, and the first two convictions were overturned on technicalities. He confessed to killing Wicker but later recanted, saying he confessed to get a quicker appeal. Through his attorney, he maintains his innocence.
Han said that, with Gilbert’s confession, DNA testing of crime scene material is imperative.
“Whether or not you believe the sworn affidavit provided by Bobby Gilbert, the pressing question right now is whether the state has done everything it can to ensure the guilty person is being put to death,” she said. “And without DNA testing, the answer is no.”
Han said there is DNA evidence from a rape kit taken from Judy Wicker.
“There is a way that we can confirm whether Gilbert is telling the truth when he confessed to murdering Troy Wicker, and that is DNA testing,” Han said. “I don’t have an opinion of him beyond this is somebody who has confessed to a crime.”
In the statement, Gilbert indicated where he disposed of the sawed-off .22 rifle. His statement said he met Judy Wicker in a bar and had sex with her at least a dozen times over a month or so, and she then hired him to kill her husband.
King said Arthur is “making a full-court press to defeat justice and deny Troy Wicker’s family.”
“I don’t see any reason to believe this,” King said. “What I know is, there is a signed affidavit that she’s never met this guy, there never was any kind of relationship with him, she paid Tommy Arthur to kill her husband and Tommy Arthur’s daughter has offered money to recant the testimony and change her testimony.”
Arthur’s scheduled execution would be the first in Alabama since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injection as a method of execution.