External Affairs

Alabama Inmate Executed for 1982 Murder After Three Decades

Thomas Arthur is seen in a police photo released May 23, 2017 by the Alabama Department of Corrections in Montgomery, Alabama, US. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections/Reuters

On Friday, May 26, Alabama executed a 75-year-old inmate who had spent more than three decades on death row and faced seven previous execution dates after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s husband in 1982.

Tommy Arthur was put to death by lethal injection at 12:15 am in Atmore, Alabama, a prison spokesman said, less than two hours after the US Supreme Court lifted a stay on his execution as it considered arguments from his attorneys.

Arthur’s lawyers argued to the Supreme Court that the use of the drug midazolam during the lethal injection is unconstitutional and questioned the legality of the state prohibiting a witness from having a cell phone to make a call if the execution went awry.

“When Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber tonight, he will leave his constitutional rights at the door,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent against the order to lift the stay.

Arthur has maintained his innocence for the 1982 murder of his girlfriend’s husband.

Three juries have found him guilty of shooting Troy Wicker to death as he slept. Two convictions were overturned on constitutional grounds. After his third conviction in 1991, Arthur asked the jury to sentence him to death.

He has been fighting his punishment since.

“Until I take my last breath, I’ll have hope,” Arthur told NBC News in an interview last week.

In November, the US Supreme Court stayed Arthur’s previous scheduled execution after he argued Alabama‘s lethal injection procedures amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

In February, the court declined to hear Arthur’s appeal, which focused on Alabama‘s use of the sedative midazolam. Examples of the drug’s inability to render executions painless are increasing, Sotomayor said in a dissent.

In new appeals, Arthur said Alabama in December injected inmate Ronald Smith with painful execution drugs while Smith was still conscious.

Alabama “plans to do the same to Mr Arthur,” his lawyers said in an appeal rejected by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

State attorneys said evidence backs the drug protocol.

No physical evidence links Arthur to the murder, and Alabama has refused to allow DNA testing of a wig worn by the killer, his lawyers have noted.

Arthur would be the 12th person executed this year in the United States and the first in Alabama, the Death Penalty Information Center said.