Wednesday, 30 July 2008

State can't find rape kit in Thomas Arthur case

State can't find rape kit in Thomas Arthur case

Posted by Stan Diel -- Birmingham News July 30, 2008 2:40 PM

An attorney for the state of Alabama in a filing today says he has been unable to locate a rape kit tied to the case of Death Row inmate Thomas D. Arthur.

Arthur is scheduled to be executed tomorrow night. His attorneys want to conduct DNA tests on the rape kit collected at the scene of the murder of Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals in 1982. The victim's wife claimed to have been raped by the killer.
The state of Alabama asked the court to reject an appeal from Arthur. Attorneys for the state argued in Jefferson County Circuit Court that claims by another man that he, and not Arthur, killed Wicker are not credible.

The affidavit - the case of Thomas Arthur

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New developments in Alabama case; Governor should stay execution to conduct DNA testing

Innocence Blog

New developments in Alabama case; Governor should stay execution to conduct DNA testing

Posted: July 30, 2008 11:55 am

Tommy Arthur has been on Alabama’s death row for a quarter-century for a murder he says he didn’t commit. He is scheduled to be executed tomorrow night, and the Alabama Supreme Court rejected one of his final appeals yesterday by a 6-2 vote. But new evidence surfaced yesterday, and it makes an irrefutable case for conducting DNA testing in the case.

Another Alabama inmate has confessed to killing Troy Wicker in exchange for $2,000, according to court papers filed yesterday, and DNA testing could prove whether his claim is true. Bobby Ray Gilbert says he killed Wicker in exchange for $2,000 from Wicker’s wife, with whom he was having an affair at the time. He says he had sex with Wicker’s wife after the crime and that he also wore a wig that day. Police collected the wig, and a rape kit containing biological evidence was collected from Wicker’s wife at the hospital. Both items of evidence are still available for testing.

The State Attorney General discounted the new evidence and said the execution should go forward.

More than 3,000 people have sent emails to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley urging him to stay Arthur’s execution in order to conduct DNA testing. It takes just one minute and your voice can make the difference – send your letter today.

More news coverage of developments in Arthur’s case:

Birmingham News editorial: Thomas Arthur is to be executed Thursday for a murder another prisoner now claims he committed. Clearly, these claims must be investigated before the execution occurs. (07/30/08)

Birmingham News: Convicted murderer serving life says he, not Thomas Arthur, killed Troy Wicker Jr. in 1982 (07/30/08)

Letters to Birmingham News

Associated Press: AG, victim’s wife dismiss claims in Wicker death

Microanalysis - Thomas Arthur

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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.

Examination of Evidence - Thomas Arthur

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Clearly, these claims must be investigated before the execution occurs

Thomas Arthur is to be executed Thursday for a murder another prisoner now claims he committed. Clearly, these claims must be investigated before the execution occurs

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thomas Arthur has been on Death Row 25 years for the murder of Troy Wicker. Twice before, he came within a day of being executed. Thursday, he is scheduled, once again, to die for this crime he claims he didn't commit.

Once again, the execution must be stopped.

Another Alabama inmate now claims he killed Wicker. Bobby Ray Gilbert claims he committed the crime as a favor to Wicker's wife, Judy. He claims he had been having an affair with Mrs. Wicker, and that she later paid him $2,000.

Gilbert's sworn statement was filed in court Tuesday in a petition that asks for DNA testing to verify the inmate's story and asks to postpone Arthur's execution until Gilbert's confession can be investigated.

Without doubt, Gilbert's claims must be met with a degree of skepticism. It wouldn't be the first time a confession like this turned out to be a fraud.

On the other hand, what Gilbert is saying can't simply be disregarded - not when there's a risk of executing the wrong man for the crime.

The case already contains enough odd twists to raise questions about Arthur's guilt. Mrs. Wicker initially told police a man broke into her home, raped her and killed her husband. At the crime scene, she appeared to have been beaten, and a rape kit was collected. Jurors didn't believe her story and convicted both her and Arthur - a work-release inmate with whom she was having an affair - of the killing.

Mrs. Wicker didn't change her story until prosecutors offered her a chance to get an early release from prison. At a subsequent trial for Arthur, she implicated him. Arthur was sentenced to death; Mrs. Wicker went free. The prosecutor in Arthur's last trial earlier had been Mrs. Wicker's lawyer.

All along, Arthur has maintained his innocence, and since DNA testing became available, he has insisted it could be used to clear him. The attorney general's office and governor's office have refused to go along with DNA testing; among other excuses, they claimed the tests wouldn't prove anything either way.

With Gilbert's statement, that's just no longer true. He claims that after shooting Troy Wicker, he had sex with Judy Wicker. If so, DNA testing of semen collected from Mrs. Wicker could at the very least show whether Gilbert is telling the truth about that.

Other facts in Gilbert's statement - names, places, etc. - also can be checked out to either bolster the veracity of his claims or to debunk them.

At least some of the statements from Gilbert mesh with some of the known facts in the case. Even so, that doesn't mean Gilbert is telling the truth. While he claims he doesn't know Arthur, Gilbert spent time in Holman Correctional Facility, where Death Row is located. He could have learned about the case there or even from newspapers.

But what if Gilbert is telling the truth? Gilbert said he began telling people last year that he killed Wicker, and even told prison officers the state shouldn't execute Arthur for the crime and that he needed to speak with Arthur's lawyers. He said he came forward only after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people couldn't be executed for crimes they committed as juveniles. Gilbert was 17 when Wicker was killed.

There's no way at this point to know whether Gilbert is telling the truth. But the state of Alabama can't assume he is lying and take the chance of executing an innocent man. Arthur's execution must not go forward.

Examination of crime scene - Thomas Arthur

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Click on the images to read them

Convicted murderer serving life says he, not Thomas Arthur, killed Troy Wicker Jr. in 1982

Assistant Alabama Attorney General Clay Crenshaw

Convicted murderer serving life says he, not Thomas Arthur, killed Troy Wicker Jr. in 1982

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

News staff writer

A convicted murderer serving life without parole for stabbing another inmate to death over a carton of cigarettes claims Alabama is about to execute an innocent man.

Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving a life sentence at St. Clair Correctional Facility, claims in documents filed in court Tuesday that it was he, not Death Row inmate Thomas D. Arthur, who murdered Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals in 1982. Arthur is scheduled to be executed for the crime at 6 p.m. Thursday.

An attorney for the state said Gilbert lacks credibility, and the execution should proceed.

In appeals filed to the Jefferson County Circuit Court and to the Alabama Supreme Court, Arthur's lawyers request a stay of execution, access to evidence for DNA testing, an emergency hearing and an order granting Arthur a new trial. Arthur's attorneys also asked Gov. Bob Riley to delay the execution.

The filings include an affidavit from Gilbert, once known as "Snake," in which he claims Wicker's wife, Judy, paid him $2,000 to kill her husband.

"I used a .22 sawed-off rifle and shot him in the face," Gilbert said in the handwritten document. "I was standing less than 20 inches from him."

Gilbert, now 43, claimed he and Judy Wicker were having an affair when he was 17, that they had sex after the crime and that he then beat her, at her request. Judy Wicker was found at the crime scene, bloodied and beaten.

Judy Wicker told authorities at the scene that a burglar raped her and killed her husband. She was convicted of the crime, however, and served 10 years in prison. She won early release after she changed her testimony and claimed she paid Arthur to kill her husband so she could collect $90,000 in life insurance proceeds. Arthur was convicted in 1991 after two earlier convictions were overturned on technicalities.

Assistant Alabama Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Gilbert simply is not believable. The state will introduce an affidavit from Judy Wicker denying his claims, he said.

"We don't think any of this has any credibility," he said. "I think he was fed information by Arthur's attorneys."

Gilbert was serving a life sentence for a DeKalb County murder when he stabbed another inmate to death with a homemade knife in 1990 at Donaldson Correctional Facility. The other inmate, Andrew "Gump" Brown, claimed to have influence with the guards and promised to arrange to have Gilbert moved to a new cell in return for a carton of cigarettes. Brown didn't deliver on the promise, so Gilbert killed him, he said at his own trial.

Suhana Han, an attorney representing Arthur, said she learned of Gilbert's story from an anonymous tip and interviewed him on Monday. Crenshaw's claims that defense attorneys coached him aren't founded, she said.

"That's a desperate attempt suggesting that the AG is afraid of the truth," she said. "There is a way to confirm whether Gilbert is telling the truth: DNA testing."

Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that advocates DNA testing for the condemned, said he thinks Gilbert's statement should be enough for the defense to win a stay and gain access to evidence.

Defense attorneys want testing done on an afro wig that Gilbert claims to have worn during the murder, and that Judy Wicker testified Arthur wore. They also want testing done on a rape kit that could indicate whether Arthur, Gilbert or another man had sex with Judy Wicker after the murder.

Earlier Tuesday - before the Gilbert affidavit was filed - the Alabama Supreme Court rejected by a 6-2 vote a defense request for a stay and access to the evidence. State and federal courts have repeatedly ruled that DNA testing of the evidence could not exonerate Arthur, and that he missed deadlines in filing appeals requesting testing.


Other inmate confesses to killing; widow disputes it

Arthur denied execution delay

Other inmate confesses to killing; widow disputes it

By Dana Beyerle Montgomery Bureau Chief
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 11:12 p.m.
MONTGOMERY | An Alabama inmate serving life in prison has allegedly confessed to a murder for which another man is scheduled to die.

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.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Affidavit: another inmate admits Wicker killing

Affidavit: another inmate admits Wicker killing

July 29, 2008 16:31 EDT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Attorneys attempting to delay Thomas Arthur's execution have sent Gov. Bob Riley and court officials an affidavit signed by another inmate who says he killed Troy Wicker Jr.

Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving life without parole, says in his handwritten affidavit that he was a 17-year-old having an affair with Wicker's wife when she hired him to kill her husband for $2,000.

Arthur is scheduled to die Thursday for the killing of Wicker in 1982.

In the affidavit, Gilbert says he first admitted the killing to a friend only last year and attempted to contact Arthur's lawyers.

The affidavit came as the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to delay Arthur's execution, set for Thursday by lethal injection.

State officials had no immediate comment on the sworn statement.

HI Governor Riley

HI Governor Riley

I have been following the case of Tommy Arthur from all the out here in Los Angeles and decided I should write to you. I am asking you to grant a stay of execution and order the DNA testing that will clear up for once and all the guilt or innocence of Mr Tommy Arthur. You have the power. You have the power to do what is right. It is not much more complicated than that.

I don't feel the need to go over all the points in this case, you already know them all. I am appealing to you as a fellow soul and human being on this planet who has an opportunity to do things differently. We are living in a time where basically the prison system is modern day Slavery that mainly afflicts the poor and underprivileged in this country. You have an opportunity to go beyond ego and politics and whatever reason you feel is justified in keeping this man from having a fair chance to live out his life in peace if he is indeed innocent.

I appeal to you because I know that you want to do the right thing Governor. 'Be the change you want to see in the world'. PLEASE.

I have read many letters from your constituents in your community who have asked you to utilize your Office in support of True Justice. Please don't let them down. Use your power to Grant the stay and order the DNA testing.

Know that I am praying for You, Mr Wicker, his family, as well as Tommy Arthur in this fragile time. I am praying for the freedom the truth grants us all.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration of this matter Governor Riley. Know you are supported.
All My Best To You,
Renee' Wilson

Honorable Governor Riley

Honorable Governor Riley:

This letter comes to you in the hopes that you truly listen to what the people [you represent] have to say. I write to you today concerning the life of Mr. Thomas Arthur, so please do not dismiss me, until you have read the (entire) letter I have taken the time to write, as that is the least of which you should grant.

It is true, that Mr. Arthur might be far from the 'model' citizen and this was not his first charge of murder. However, Mr. Arthur is entitled, as are we all, to equal protection in the eyes of the law - regardless of what our personal feelings might be. And, Mr. Arthur is facing execution for the conviction of Mr. Troy Wicker, nobody else.

It would stand to reason any and all evidence, most especially, in a Capital Murder case would be utilized and scrutinized with the best that technology and science have to offer. At least, if it's the truth and justice that we seek. Only a biased mind would close itself, deny use of available evidence, thus running the risk of executing someone for a crime they did not commit - reasoning that they committed another murder in the past, therefore it's just(ice) even if they didn't commit the crime they are now facing.

Justice is defined as: Impartial, equal protection and administration of the law; Honesty with integrity and a fair representation of all the facts. And, it is in that 'fair representation of ALL the facts' that comes to issue in this matter. But, we must remember, it is the murder of Mr. Troy Wicker that is at issue.

You have [and hold] the power, ability, and the opportunity to ensure ALL the facts are examined and scrutinized by granting DNA testing in the case of Mr. Arthur, thus laying to rest any doubts that might still linger. Only when we remove all doubt of innocence can we truly know the matter of guilt.

WE ARE ALL comprised of our 'collective' pasts. It is how we choose to learn from that past that molds our futures. One day in the future, that DNA WILL BE TESTED. (Unless of course it were to be destroyed, which would only cement the doubt of guilt in this case.)

With the numbers in excess of six hundred (600) exonerations to date, 120+ on death row, it is more than reasonable to pursue the DNA testing of available evidence, leaving no stone unturned, so to speak. The POINT now becomes, will you be that person? Are you willing to carry the weight of denial? Are you willing to risk the taking of another's life for a crime that the future might prove, they were NOT guilty of committing?

Only a person, who has already made up their mind on the issue of guilt or innocence, would deny evidence before them that could only speak the truth. There is no justice in that! Denying DNA testing would be a grave error in any case, as it perpetuates speculation to guilt or innocence and could lead to irreversible mistakes. Repeated mistakes become bad habits - setting patterns in future for bad judgment.

"An error becomes an irreversible mistake when we refuse to fix it." We must ALL live with the decisions we make, and no man/woman should be defined by a single moment in life, yet it seems in this life, we are all defined by our worst moment. Will this be the moment that defines your life Governor Riley? Only you have the power to decide the answer to that question.

I implore you to grant DNA testing in the case of Mr. Thomas Arthur, and finally lay to rest any and all doubts to his guilt or innocence. Closure will never be attained in this case without the DNA testing of all the evidence.


O'Della Wilson
Alabama Christian Tax Payer

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. [James 1:12]

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Dear Honorable Governor Riley

Letter to Governor Riley, 7-29-08, sent via email through his official website:

Subject: Prison and Paroles

Re: Mr. Thomas Arthur's Execution

Dear Honorable Governor Riley:

During your time in office you have used the name of Jesus, spoken of your faith and of doing the right thing. Please know that regarding the subject of Mr. Arthur and the case in general, that I understand that you wish, and rightfully so, to help bring closure to the family of Mr. Wicker, the victim. It is public knowledge that you have used this as a reason to not grant Mr. Arthur a stay of execution pending the requested DNA testing. Honorable Governor, I submit to you that while this reason sounds good, it does not make sense upon examining the facts of the case and the way Mr. Arthur has already been treated by our state during his trial; and especially since members of Mr. Wicker‘s own family also wish the testing to be done. Therefore, as a fellow citizen of this state and as your Sister in our Lord, I beseech you to reconsider your decision and grant Mr. Arthur a stay of execution pending the DNA testing.

If you allow this execution to go forward without checking the evidence taken by good law enforcement officers years ago; how can you say justice has been carried out? For if you do not check the evidence; especially in a case where execution is the outcome, and Mr. Arthur is put to death wrongfully, justice will not have been served. Also, if Mr. Arthur is innocent, that means a real murderer and criminal has been walking around free for almost thirty years, while an innocent man has been incarcerated.

You have also used the cost of the test as a reason for not ordering the testing; stating to our shame and disgrace, that we as a state can‘t afford the cost of the test. However, the Innocence Project has stepped forward and stated they would cover the cost of the test, so that reason is not valid either. (I submitt that we cannot afford to not do the test.)

Have you noticed that businesses are giving bids to other states and not coming to Alabama? Do you not know that the outcome of this case is being viewed by the rest of our country and perhaps the world? Your actions are important, and you cannot say you don’t have the power, for it has been stated by those that know, that indeed you do have the power to stop the execution pending the testing. The question is why will you not order it?

Could it be that you are aware that if Mr. Arthur is found innocent and freed that the state of Alabama will be liable for the time he has spent in prison? And it is true that we would be opened to a liable suit; however, considering what Mr. Arthur has been through he would deserve some kind of compensation from a state that wouldn’t listen to him before, during, or since the trial; a state that did not enter witnesses that would have corroborated his alibi for the time of Mr. Wicker’s murder, etc. Please know that I had rather pay Mr. Arthur proper compensation, than be a party to an innocent man’s murder.

Governor, I am not a lawyer, but I do know right from wrong and what Jesus taught. According to the teaching of Jesus to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” how can you not wish to know the truth regarding the murder of Mr. Wicker? If it were you, your wife, or one of your children in Mr. Arthur’s place, facing death after saying for almost thirty years that you/they are innocent and there was a means to use to at least check information given, wouldn’t you want it to be used; wouldn’t you want it to be tested before any execution took place? If you answered yes to that question, you have no choice but to grant Mr. Arthur a stay until this testing may be done for him in his case. Again, I beseech you in Jesus’ name, (Jesus who knows about sham trials) and in the name of true justice, to stop this execution until all the evidence has been examined and taken into consideration. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter. May you be well.

In Jesus' Precious Name,

Sarah Wires

Two days to execution in Alabama, still no DNA test

Two days to execution in Alabama, still no DNA test

Gov. Bob Riley

For nearly 25 years, Tommy Arthur has sat on Alabama’s death row. His appeals have been repeatedly denied, and he is now scheduled to die on Thursday night, July 31, despite the fact that critical evidence in his case has still not been subjected to DNA testing. The evidence could help show whether Arthur is guilty or innocent, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (above) has the authority to order the tests, but he has refused to do so.

In recent weeks, thousands of Innocence Project supporters have sent emails directly to Riley, urging him to order DNA testing in the case. Last year, Riley’s aides insisted that state governors couldn’t order DNA tests, but George W. Bush ordered testing for a death row inmate when he was the governor of Texas and several other governors have done the same. Nationwide, 16 people who served time on death row for crimes they didn’t commit have been exonerated by DNA evidence. Send an email to Riley today urging him to do the right thing before he carries out a sentence he can't reverse.

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Wątpliwości kata - o karze śmierci w USA

Wątpliwości kata - o karze śmierci w USA

Marc Pitzk
2008-07-29, ostatnia aktualizacja 2008-07-29 11:29

Thomas Arthur ze stanu Alabama od 1982 roku czeka w celi śmierci na egzekucję. Do tej pory nie przedstawiono konkretnych dowodów jego winy, więc wyrok ten budzi wiele wątpliwości. Gubernator stanu Alabama odrzucił wniosek o analizę próbek DNA, które można pobrać z materiału dowodowego i które ewentualnie mogłyby jednoznacznie wykazać niewinność skazanego. Na 31 lipca wyznaczony został termin egzekucji.

Zobacz powiekszenie
Cela śmierci
Córka Thomasa Arthura Sherrie Stone już dwa razy żegnała się z ojcem. - W więzieniu Atmore dwukrotnie już mówiłam mu "do widzenia" - przyznaje. Już dwa razy rzucała na ojca ostatnie spojrzenie, gdy znikał za kratami celi śmierci, w której od 26 lat czeka na swoją egzekucję. Dwukrotnie już zdarzyło się, że przesuwano jej termin zaledwie parę godzin przed wykonaniem wyroku.

Ojciec Sherrie Stone został w 1982 roku oskarżony o morderstwo. W ostatnim tygodniu lipca jego 47-letnia córka po raz trzeci uda się do więzienia w Atmore w Alabamie, które od Florydy dzieli 8 godzin jazdy samochodem. W czwartek 31 lipca Stone znów będzie celebrować moment pożegnania, zanim kat zaaplikuje jej ojcu śmiercionośny zastrzyk. Przy czym trzeci raz nie będzie wcale łatwiejszy niż dwa poprzednie.

Sherrie Stone mocno wierzy w niewinność ojca, który od samego początku nie przyznawał się do popełnienia morderstwa. - To straszne - mówi. - To frustrujące i straszne. Zarówno dla skazanego, jak i dla całej naszej rodziny.

Śmierć niewinnego?

W amerykańskich więzieniach na egzekucję czeka ponad 3 300 przestępców, z czego 203 w samej Alabamie. Wielu z nich nie przyznaje się do winy. Przypadek Thomasa Arthura jest dość szczególny, bo istnieje mnóstwo materiałów dowodowych, z których można by pobrać próbki DNA, a ich zbadanie mogłoby prawdopodobnie jednoznacznie stwierdzić niewinność skazanego. Mimo wszystko gubernator Alabamy republikanin Bob Riley nie godzi się na przeprowadzenie analizy i uparcie trzyma się najnowszego terminu wykonania wyroku, w ogóle nie zważając na fakt, że stracony może zostać niewinny człowiek.

Nie tylko Stone obawia się, że dojdzie do justizmordu. Amnesty International również zgłosiła swoje wątpliwości dotyczące procesu Arthura, a wyrok, który zapadł na podstawie zeznań mało wiarygodnego świadka, określa epitetem "szczególnie problematyczny". Do sprawy włączyła się nawet ONZ. Philip Alston, ekspert organizacji zajmujący się nielegalnymi wyrokami śmierci, zarzucił niedawno gubernatorowi Rileyowi, że "w skandaliczny sposób demonstruje swoją obojętność, ryzykując życie niewinnego człowieka".

Jednak do tej pory wszelkie próby przekonania gubernatora o konieczności przeprowadzenia badań DNA spełzły na niczym, a Bob Riley jest jedyną osobą, która dysponuje tu prawem łaski. Na pytanie, dlaczego w procesie nie wykorzystano pełnego materiału dowodowego, rzeczniczka gubernatora Tara Hutchinson przekazała dziennikarzom, że "zbadanie dowodów zawierających próbki DNA nie przyczyni się do uniewinnienia Thomasa Arthura. Organy państwowe wykonają wyrok, chyba że dojdzie do interwencji sądu".

Na pomoc wymiaru sprawiedliwości liczy między innymi prawnik Arthura Suhana Han, która razem ze swoją wspólniczką Jordaną Razza broni oskarżonego pro bono. W poniedziałek 21 lipca Han i Razza złożyły ostatni wniosek o przeprowadzenie testów DNA. "Czas mija nieubłaganie" - mówi Han.

Człowiek ze skazą

Do morderstwa, za które skazano Thomasa Arthura, doszło 1 lutego 1982 roku w Muscle Shoals - miasteczku na granicy Alabamy i Tennessee. 35-letni Troy Wicker został zabity we śnie strzałem w prawe oko z 22-kalibrowego pistoletu. Jego żonę policja zastała zakrwawioną na miejscu zbrodni. Judy Wicker zeznała, że jakiś czarnoskóry mężczyzna włamał się do ich domu, zgwałcił ją i zastrzelił jej męża.

Mimo zeznań Judy, sąd orzekł w 1982 roku o winie zarówno jej, jak i Thomasa Arthura. Jak się później okazało, w momencie śmierci Troy'a Wickera Judy i Arthur mieli ze sobą romans. Wdowę skazano na dożywocie, a jej kochanka na karę śmierci na krześle elektrycznym. Oboje zdecydowanie utrzymywali, że są niewinni, a Judy Wicker ośmiokrotnie zeznała pod przysięgą, że Arthur nie miał ze śmiercią jej męża nic wspólnego.

Jednak miał on już na swoim koncie parę grzechów i niestety nie był wzorem nienagannego obywatela. Wcześniej został skazany za inne morderstwo na karę dożywocia, a w chwili zabójstwa Troy'a Wickera wykonywał zleconą pracę poza więzieniem i pod kontrolą służb państwowych przebywał na wolności. Gazeta lokalna "Daily Times" określała go epitetami: porywczy, przebiegły, szarmancki gentleman.

Rewizja wyroku skazującego Thomasa Arthura miała miejsce dwukrotnie i również dwukrotnie - w roku 1987 i 1991 - sąd wyższej instancji potwierdzał poprzedni wyrok. Ten, który zapadł ostatnio, utrzymany został przez sądy wszystkich instancji.

Podczas ostatniego procesu Judy Wicker wycofała dawne zeznania potwierdzające niewinność byłego kochanka i jako powołany przez prokuraturę świadek zeznała, że zapłaciła Arthurowi za zamordowanie męża, aby przejąć majątek z jego ubezpieczenia na życie. Za złożenie tych zeznań sąd zdecydował o zawieszeniu kary Judy. Proces - w którym notabene Thomas Arthur musiał bronić się sam - trwał zaledwie trzy dni.

Brak dowodów

Thomas Arthur znacznie "ułatwił" przysięgłym podjęcie decyzji, gdy w 1986 roku zbiegł z więzienia i podczas ucieczki postrzelił więziennego strażnika. Jakby tego było mało, napadł jeszcze na bank. Złapano go 6 tygodni później.

Córka Sherrie Stone przyznaje, że z ojcem nie wiążą się jej żadne miłe wspomnienia. - Byłam dzieckiem, gdy pierwszy raz trafił do więzienia - opowiada. - Alkohol był w naszej rodzinie zawsze dużym problemem. O Arthurze mówiono, że jest zabijaką. Rodzina wylądowała przez niego na ulicy, teściowa uciekła, Sherrie i dwoje rodzeństwa wychowywało się bez rodziców. Stone dowiedziała się o zabójstwie Wickera w domu swojej babki. - Ja też przez długi czas nie miałam wątpliwości, że ojciec jest winny. Nie rozmawialiśmy ze sobą przez 15 lat.

Dopiero po pewnym czasie Stone zaczęła przeglądać akta sądowe sprawy Thomasa Arthura. To, co znalazła, było dla niej niemałym szokiem. - Nie istniały absolutnie żadne dowody, które potwierdzałyby winę mojego ojca - mówi.

Sherrie Stone odkryła, że sąd zignorował ogromną ilość materiału dowodowego, a przede wszystkim nie zlecił analizy próbek DNA. Wśród dowodów były bowiem włosy, krew, zaświadczenie wykonania obdukcji po rzekomym gwałcie na Judy Wicker, poduszka czy peruka. Odciski palców, billingi telefoniczne, zeznania świadków, a nawet alibi Arthura - sąd niczego nie wziął pod uwagę. Dwóch innych podejrzanych w ogóle zignorowano. Na dodatek jeden z policjantów miał romans z Judy Wicker.

Czy prawda zdąży wyjść na jaw przed egzekucją?

Po zapoznaniu się z materiałem dowodowym Sherrie Stone -agentka nieruchomości - rozpoczęła walkę o swojego ojca. Stworzyła stronę internetową, pisała petycje, nakręciła krótki film i opublikowała go na portalu YouTube. W zeszłym roku poświęciła tej sprawie tak wiele czasu, że musiała ogłosić upadłość swojej firmy. - Mój mąż często sam nie wie, co ma o tym wszystkim myśleć - przyznaje Sherrie.

Również Thomas Arthur próbował samodzielnie zmagać się z wyrokiem. Stan Alabama z reguły nie przyznaje oskarżonym obrońcy z urzędu, więc Arthur robił to na własną rękę, przygotowując obronę w więziennej celi. Jednak w związku z tym, że nie miał nawet dostępu do biblioteki, nie szło mu najlepiej i w końcu przegapił ostatni termin na wniesienie sprzeciwu.

Dzięki znacznym postępom technologicznym analiza DNA jest od pewnego czasu głównym czynnikiem decydującym o wyrokach sądowych, jednak w 7 stanach Ameryki Północnej wciąż jeszcze nie wprowadzono obowiązku przeprowadzania badań DNA. Należy do nich między innymi Alabama. Jak podaje organizacja pozarządowa Innocence Project, dzięki zbadaniu próbek DNA, pobranych z materiału dowodowego, na wolność wyszło już 16 osób, które wcześniej niesłusznie skazano na śmierć. Do tej pory o pomoc poprosiło organizację 3 014 więźniów, oskarżonych nie tylko o morderstwo, ale też o inne przestępstwa. Obecnie Innocence Project prowadzi analizę 279 przypadków, jednym z nich jest sprawa Thomasa Arthura.

- Jak na razie nie mamy oficjalnej opinii na temat jego winy lub niewinności - stwierdza przedstawiciel Innocence Project Jason Kreag. - Wierzymy jednak, że Arthur zasługuje na to, aby sprawdzić próbki DNA, które mogą mieć związek z jego sprawą. Organizacja wysłała do gubernatora Riley'a list, podpisany przez 6 byłych skazanych na śmierć, którzy dzięki jej pomocy mogą dziś cieszyć się wolnością: "Wszyscy siedzieliśmy w celi śmierci i zadawaliśmy sobie pytanie, czy prawda zdąży wyjść na jaw przed egzekucją?"

Narkoza, paraliż mięśni, ustanie pracy serca

Gubernator Bob Riley odrzuca jednak wszelkie prośby. Tak samo postępuje minister sprawiedliwości Troy King, który notabene prowadzi w Alabamie kampanię wyborczą Johna McCaina, kandydata republikanów do fotela prezydenckiego: "Już najwyższy czas, aby wykonać wyrok".

Termin egzekucji przesuwano już dwukrotnie, za każdym razem w ostatniej chwili. Ostatnio miało to miejsce w grudniu, kiedy sąd najwyższej instancji zawiesił wykonywanie wszystkich egzekucji za pomocą zastrzyku z trucizny. W kwietniu Supreme Court przywrócił jednak tę metodę, a data egzekucji Arthura została wyznaczona na 31 lipca.

Jeżeli wszystko odbędzie się zgodnie z nakazami wymiaru sprawiedliwości, ostatnie chwile Thomasa Arthura będą wyglądać następująco: skazany zostanie na oczach świadków przywiązany do noszy, kat zaaplikuje mu najpierw narkozę z thiopentalu, a później całą resztę zabójczej mieszanki - zwiotczający mięśnie pavulon i zatrzymujący pracę serca chlorek potasu.

- Rozmawiałam z ojcem wczoraj - mówi Sherrie Stone. - Jest wściekły, że zabijają go za coś, czego nie zrobił. Mimo wszystko cały czas walczy i nie podda się do ostatniej chwili.

Źródło: Der Spiegel

Monday, 28 July 2008

SHERRIE STONE LIVE on Thomas Arthur case NOW

LISTEN and Call 1-866-494-WVNN in 2 minutes at 5 PM

And the website is here :

To Governor Riley from Mario in Italy

Kind Mr Governor,

I am italian and catholic. I am sorry if my english it is bad.

I write at His Person for Mr Thomas Arthur, inmate of the Alabama State. Kind I ask of to stop his execution and to grant to him the possibility to show his innocence through the Dna test.

Kind Governor, I don't know His religious faith, nevertheless I believe with the heart in the God of the Christian Cross, that Jesus Christ that Him has voluntarily accepted from innocent to offer His Blood to save all in front of our Father in the Skies.

Dear Governor, in the name of Christ King, of all the Most Holy Divine Trinity, humbly I implore He Mister Governor to use the power that God has entrusted to His Person for to administer in earth the Divine Wish, express in the Commandment: "not to kill", Commandment submitted to Mosè on the Sinai mountain, Commandment that doesn't admit exclusions.

Kind Governor, I pray, I hope that at the end you will choose in the correct way with the heart and the mind you turn to that man killed in Cross 2000 years ago, Jesus that just before to die churches to the Celestial Father: " Father, I pray you it forgives them because they don't know what they do."

I apologize me for the time that I have probably subtracted to He, Mister Governor, but me I felt in the heart as a duty to turn to His Person these simple words.

Thanks of His attention

Mr Mario De Plano

Federal officials try to block Texas execution to allow world court review of case

Federal officials try to block Texas execution to allow world court review of case

12:00 AM CDT on Monday, July 28, 2008
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News

Fourteen years and numerous judicial reviews have passed since José Medellin was sentenced to die after confessing to the brutal gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston.

That's long enough, state officials say. It's time to carry out the sentence.

But defense attorneys, and an unusual coalition of federal officials, including no less than the attorney general and secretary of state, say if his Aug. 5 execution is not stayed, so Mr. Medellin's case can be reviewed one more time at the behest of the International Court of Justice, Texas will be rushing to judgment and endangering Americans abroad.

"Put simply, the United States seeks the help of the State of Texas," Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a letter released by defense attorneys.

Federal authorities are scrambling to bring the U.S. into compliance with the Vienna Convention, a treaty signed decades ago giving jurisdiction to the world court in cases concerning consular access. The world court first called for additional review for dozens of Mexican citizens condemned to die without access to their consular officials in 2004 and repeated the call in another decision July 16.

"We respectfully request that Texas take the steps necessary to give effect to the ...decision," the June letter says.

President Bush tried to resolve the issue three years ago by ordering states to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row, including Mr. Medellin, as directed by the International Court. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Mr. Bush overstepped his authority and that individual states are not bound by the international court decision.

The Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for Harris County prosecutors to seek an execution date for Mr. Medellin.

But two weeks ago, a bill was introduced in Congress by Reps. Howard Berman, D-California, and Zoe Lofgren, D-California, to require states to come into compliance with the International Court order. Defense attorneys and officials are pushing to delay Mr. Medellin's execution until that bill can be considered.

"Texas has an obligation to abide by this commitment of the United States just like everybody else, and Texas should allow Congress an adequate time to pass the legislation," said Donald Donovan, Mr. Medellin's attorney.

Concern about the impending execution and its possible ramifications is so high that a group of state department officials traveled to Texas to lobby the governor's general counsel. Some international law experts say Americans traveling abroad who are arrested may suffer if the U.S. does not abide by the treaty.

A dilemma

But Gov. Perry remains resolute. Spokesman Robert Black admits the federal government has "a big sort of dilemma" because the United States as a whole is obligated to abide by international treaty obligations, but individual states are not.

Still, "the governor isn't feeling any pressure on this simply because he is here to uphold the laws of the state of Texas and not some foreign court in Europe," he said.

"Two young girls were brutally gang raped and murdered, and the governor is not willing to say that any foreign national is going to get any additional protection under the law than a Texas citizen would," Mr. Black said.

Mr. Medellin, 33, was afforded the same rights in his case, including a court-appointed attorney, as any American citizen. In 1994, he was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering Elizabeth Pena, 16. Another girl, Jennifer Ertman, 14, was also raped and murdered. The girls stumbled into a gang initiation.

Despite the horrific nature of the crime, defense attorney Donovan said it "would be fundamentally unjust" for Gov. Perry to not respect the commitment made under the treaty "by the American people as a whole."

"In Texas, like the rest of the United States, a deal is a deal," he said.

And, he added, Americans overseas could face consequences. "I think the people of Texas, just like the rest of the American people, would not want Texas to do anything that would jeopardize the safety of Americans living, traveling, and working abroad."

'Profoundly wrong'

Despite Mr. Perry's determination not to halt the execution, Mr. Donovan seems confident the lethal injection will be stopped. "For Texas to go forward would be profoundly wrong," he said. "And we believe if Texas insists on going forward with this execution that a Texas court or a federal court will step in, including the Supreme Court."

Others doubt the political pressure or legal maneuvers will have much effect at either the state or national level.

"There may be some attempt at having a political solution but Texas will be a very reluctant partner in that," said Dr. Kimi King, a lawyer and associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas.

She believes the August execution will proceed "because there's simply too great of a political culture inside Texas that is supportive of the death penalty, and there is more mileage to be gained from opposing the request to stay it than there would be in trying to support it."

Chuck Cooper, a Washington attorney who filed a brief supporting Texas in the Medellin Supreme Court case, said he doubted Congressional efforts would amount to much either. He could see "some fringe California congressman offering a bill to do this," he said, "but I can't imagine Congress as a whole passing a statute."

Treaty obligations are important, Mr. Cooper said, but "the obligation to fulfill treaty requirements simply gives way when it would violate constitutional laws."

Arthur's fate can be tied to DNA tests

Arthur's fate can be tied to DNA tests

We like to think the legal system gets it right when a person is convicted of murder and sentenced to prison or death. However, all human systems are fallible. That is why there are more than 675 documented cases nationally of a person's exoneration after being convicted of murder, and 258 of those people were sentenced to death. (These cases are documented in the Innocents Database,, and 11 of these are Alabama cases.)

Thomas Arthur is on Alabama's Death Row and scheduled to be executed Thursday. However, the circumstances of his 1991 murder conviction and death sentence strongly suggest his case is one in which the system did not get it right. Several key issues illustrate this:

The only direct evidence placing Arthur, a Caucasian, at the crime scene was the testimony of Judy Wicker, the wife of the murdered man. However, Wicker told police investigators at the crime scene, and she testified at her trial for her husband's murder that she was raped by the black intruder who killed her husband. After almost 10 years of imprisonment, she recanted by testifying at Arthur's 1991 trial that she hired him to commit the murder. Wicker was promptly paroled from her life sentence after testifying.

The trial judge denied the defense's request for forensic testing of crime scene evidence. There are DNA techniques now available to analyze the evidence that includes Judy Wicker's clothing and rape kit, a wig and hair samples, vacuum sweepings from the Wicker home, a pillow case, hair samples from a shoe, blood, bullet cartridges and a bullet. DNA testing could both exclude Arthur as the source of DNA on the evidence, and identify the person or persons it came from.

Arthur's trial attorney did not interview witnesses who could have corroborated his alibi. Eleven years after Arthur's trial, his pro bono lawyers obtained affidavits from two credible alibi witnesses who swore that on the morning of Troy Wicker's murder, they saw and talked with Arthur in Decatur, about an hour from the Muscle Shoals crime scene. The exculpatory evidence provided by those alibi witnesses has never been subjected to examination in any state or federal court proceeding.

Arthur's court-appointed attorney was entrusted with the responsibility to provide effective representation during his capital murder trial. To accomplish his crucial responsibilities in the most complex type of criminal case a lawyer can undertake, Arthur's counsel was paid the princely sum of $1,000.

No competent lawyer will represent a person in a contested divorce involving property and children for that amount. We submit that on its face, $1,000 is inadequate for Arthur's trial counsel to have provided him with effective representation.

These are only four of many compelling issues in Arthur's case. However, they illustrate it is reasonable to doubt the correctness of his conviction. DNA testing of the evidence could provide new evidence conclusively excluding Arthur's presence at the crime scene, and that a black male was present. Those new facts would prove Wicker's testimony at Arthur's trial was false, they would support the alibi witnesses who swore Arthur was in Decatur at the time of the murder, and they would confirm that Arthur's trial counsel provided ineffective representation. The essence of this brief analysis is that Arthur's actual innocence of Troy Wicker's murder can be established, but the trigger to do that is DNA testing of the crime scene evidence.

Arthur asserts his innocence of Wicker's murder, there is no physical evidence tying him to the crime scene, and Judy Wicker supported his innocence claim until she had a choice few people could resist - die in prison or walk out of prison by identifying Arthur as the perpetrator.

The circumstances of Arthur's conviction are similar to those present in known cases of false conviction. That Arthur's conviction has not been corrected can be attributed to the fact that procedural technicalities have prevented the merits of his post-conviction challenges to his conviction from being reviewed by any state or federal court.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has the authority to order DNA testing of the evidence in Arthur's case. As Attorney General, Troy King clearly stated in a Feb. 16, 2006, brief filed with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: "If the governor wants DNA testing, the governor gets DNA testing." However, Riley has steadfastly refused to order DNA testing, which has proved its value by exonerating 62 people convicted of murder, 20 of whom were sentenced to death.

No person should be executed because their conviction is a mistake. The interests of justice do nothing less than mandate Riley issue a stay of Arthur's scheduled execution and order DNA testing of all available crime-related evidence. Hans Sherrer is president of the Justice Institute and publisher of Justice: Denied, the magazine for the wrongly convicted. E-mail: Web site:

Mo. Supreme Court to set execution date

July 26

MISSOURI---new execution date

Mo. Supreme Court to set execution date

The Missouri Supreme Court said Friday it plans to set a date for the
state's 1st execution since 2005.

The court announced it would issue a warrant to execute Dennis Skillicorn
on Aug. 27. Skillicorn was convicted of killing Richard Drummond in
Lafayette County in 1994.

Friday's announcement bumps Skillicorn up in the line of condemned men
awaiting execution in Missouri.

The court on Tuesday announced plans to issue a warrant to execute John
Middleton on Sept. 17. At the time of that announcement, that would have
been the 1st execution date since 2005.

Skillicorn and his wife, Paula, were part of a lawsuit this week by nearly
30 inmates, family and clergy members and legislators. The suit claims
Missouri's method of lethal injection violates state law, and asks for a
temporary halt on executions.

Scott Holste, spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon, said the office
would continue to oppose any effort by Skillicorn to stop the execution.

Kansas City attorney Jennifer Merrigan said her client did not commit the
murder. She said co-defendant Allen Nicklasson repeatedly confessed from
the beginning that he was responsible for the murder and that Skillicorn
didn't know anything about it.

"That statement was not allowed in at trial," she said Friday. "It was
never heard by the jury. That's something we think is really important."

She said Skillicorn is "very remorseful" for his participation in events
that led to the murder.

"Dennis has devoted a lot of time in prison to giving something back," she

(source: Associated Press)




Allowing the State of Alabama to execute Thomas Arthur in the full knowledge that strong doubt
exists concerning the certainty of his guilt, doubt which could be resolved with DNA testing,
amounts to nothing less than murder.
Thomas Arthur was convicted of the killing of Troy Wicker on the basis of evidence supplied by
the victim`s wife. She initially claimed a stranger other than Arthur, had broken into her home,
raped her and killed her husband. She was charged and convicted of the murder. In eight sworn
statements, she stated that Arthur was in no way connected with the crime. However, after ten
years in prison for her husband`s murder, she altered her story and overturned her previous
testimony. Presumably in an attempt to secure an early release from prison, she stated that
Arthur had indeed had sex with her and that he had been the killer.
This was the only testimony against Arthur. At the time of the murder, several pieces of
evidence were collected from the crime scene and preserved. Performing DNA testing on these
items would determine the validity of the testimony given by this witness. The Innocence
Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully
convicted people through DNA testing, have stressed that the remaining existing biological
evidence in Arthur`s case does meet the criteria for DNA testing and will prove conclusively his
innocence or guilt. In the course of 16 years they have exonerated 218 people from wrongful
conviction and stand resolutely behind the need for certainty in this case. Along with the
Innocence Project, Amnesty International, The Vatican and thousands of United States Citizens
and organizations have called, e-mailed or written to Governor Riley of Alabama urging him to
conduct this testing immediately so that once and for all Arthur’s involvement can be determined.
Yet despite this repeated soliciting and petitioning, Governor Riley has held firm to this day
refusing to allow DNA testing which could resolve this case. This casts serious doubt on his
concern for the truth, and consequently on the value he places on human life and his
commitment for a government which is accountable and ethical. DNA testing can do one
important thing: It can prove Thomas Arthur’s innocence and it can prevent the state from
erroneously executing another innocent man. If we define justice as a principle of moral
rightness, of impartiality, of conformity to truth, fact, or reason, how can we reconcile Governor
Riley`s refusal to order DNA, his refusal to want the truth, as anything less than morally
A recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court determined that suspected terrorists have a
right to this review, Thomas Arthur, a United States Citizen, does not. This constitutional right
was denied to him when the Supreme Court determined in November 2007 that DNA testing on
crime scene evidence in his case could not be conducted.
Every United States Citizen has a right to a Habeas Corpus Review. Yet Thomas Arthur, whose
execution date has been set for July 31st 2008, has lost this right because he is guilty of having
filed his Habeas Corpus appeal too late, beyond the one year time limit. As a consequence, his
appeals have never been heard or reviewed at either a Federal or State level, his claim of
innocence remaining unheard. The State of Alabama has determined that he has exhausted his
appeals, when in truth no appeals in this case have ever even been heard. Alabama’s legal
process does not entitle inmates to an attorney during post conviction appeals; and because
most cannot afford a legal representative to act on their behalf as Arthur could not, they are
automatically condemned by their own ignorance, to filing papers beyond designated time limits.
For something which we can only consider a bureaucratic timeline, Arthur has been unable to
introduce evidence collected by an investigator which would cast extremely serious doubt on his
presence at the murder scene and on other significant details. But perhaps what is more
important is that it does not allow for the facts of that night to emerge. One of the pivotal points
in Arthur`s defense involves shedding light on the inherently untrustworthy testimony of his only
witness. DNA testing and its reliability could determine conclusively the validity of these claims.
It is considered universally to be not susceptible to reasonable dispute, the one answer to the
uncertainties which have emerged in this case.
It would be natural then to assume that such a test would be invaluable, essential in determining
the guilt of a man on death row who is in the fight for his life. Yet this is not what is happening.
For whatever reason, Governor Riley will not allow DNA testing to be performed on this
evidence. If we question his behavior and motives, we can only conclude that they are
unconscionable and more than just a little unjustifiable with so much outcry for justice. Clearly he
has in his hands the tools to resolve this case, and he will not. His indifference is tantamount to
murder and his intentions far removed from the principles of justice as being impartial or fair.
What he is doing is morally reprehensible.
When we prepare to execute a man who is condemned not only to die but to function within a
system which does not concern itself with his true guilt or innocence, which puts bureaucracy
above the value of human life refusing testing on DNA which could exonerate him and save him,
we have to ask ourselves what mockery are we making of justice? Liberty is a precious gift, one
which must be diligently guarded from those who would take it from us, and Governor Riley is
deliberately refusing the possibility of liberty for a man who can be proven innocent. Lady
Justice is blindfolded for a reason.

For all press inquiries please contact:

Sherrie Stone
Director of Communications
Telephone: 813-293-9139
Fax: 813-907-3513

For information:
Dianne Abshire
9673 State Route 65
Ottawa, OH 45875
419 523-5816
Giuseppina Bianca
31 (for Holland) 70 3246612
Gloria Colonnello
New York
212 539 8415
Sissel Egeland
Florida Support
312-277-8780 Fax US
47 ( for Norway) 98622499

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Former Dartmouth resident, once on Florida death row, freed

Former Dartmouth resident, once on Florida death row, freed

A Dartmouth native who spent 13 years on Florida's death row in a murder-for-hire case was released Friday after he agreed to a plea deal, his lawyer said.

Michael W. Mordenti, 67, was convicted in 1991 of killing Thelma Royston in Odessa, Fla., after the victim's husband allegedly sought to have her murdered for $10,000. First sentenced to death and later given life, Mr. Mordenti accepted a lesser charge of second-degree murder offered by the state after he won an appeal, his lawyer, Martin McClain, said.

His new sentence is 25 years, and he was ordered released immediately for time served plus good behavior, said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

"This is a glorious day for me and my family," said his daughter, Michelle Bergeron, a New Bedford resident. "God has answered our prayers."

Mr. Mordenti, a former used-car dealer, grew up in Dartmouth. He and his third wife, Gail Milligan, sold a used-car lot on State Road in the early 1980s and moved to Florida, said Ms. Bergeron, who is the daughter of his second wife.

The victim's husband, Larry Royston, allegedly convinced Mr. Mordenti's ex-wife, Ms. Milligan, to arrange a hit on his wife. She said she contacted three people before getting her ex-husband to carry out the hit, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Mr. Royston committed suicide before his trial.

The Florida Supreme Court granted him a new trial in 2004 on grounds the prosecutors allegedly withheld evidence casting doubt on the credibility of his ex-wife, who was given immunity, the newspaper reported at the time of the court's decision.

However, following a second trial ending with a deadlocked jury, a third trial in 2005 resulted in Mr. Mordenti being convicted a second time and given life.

Earlier this year, an appellate court in Florida ordered a new trial, which was scheduled to start next month, due to evidence not admitted by the judge in the 2005 trial. Prosecutors offered second-degree murder, and Mr. Mordenti pleaded "in his best interest," without admitting guilt, Mr. McClain said in a telephone interview.

"He always maintained his innocence," said Ms. Bergeron, who praised his lawyers.

"It was very hard for my family through the years to go through this," she said.

It was not immediately clear what Mr. Mordenti would do next. Mr. McClain said he is considering moving to Alaska.

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