The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Thursday that Alabama can proceed with the execution of Tommy Arthur, an inmate once nicknamed the “Houdini” of death row after having seven prior execution dates postponed.
Arthur, 75, was convicted in the 1982 murder-for-hire slaying of Troy Wicker.
Arthur’s lawyers made multiple last-ditch appeals, both in and out of court, seeking to halt the execution originally scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary to consider Arthur’s request. Justices, shortly before 11 p.m., paved the way for the execution to proceed. Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the decision in a dissent.
Arthur’s lawyers argued that Alabama plans to use an ineffective sedative and Arthur will feel “the chemical equivalent of with a dissent from being burned at the stake.” In a separate filing, they argued that his legal team should have access to a telephone in the witness room in the case the execution goes awry.
Speaking by telephone Monday from the south Alabama prison, Arthur maintained his innocence but acknowledged his hopes of gaining an eighth reprieve are diminishing. “I’m terrified, but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve got hope in my legal team,” Arthur told The Associated Press.
Arthur prior execution date reprieves — largely based on repeated challenges to the humaneness of lethal injection — frustrated victims’ advocates, Wicker’s family and the Alabama attorney general’s office.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called Arthur’s case an “egregious example of how a convicted murderer can manipulate the legal system to avoid justice.”
Arthur maintained his innocence as his legal team and asked the state’s governor to halt the execution to allow DNA testing on hairs found at the scene. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey denied the request saying the matter how already been reviewed by juries and the courts.
“Neither a fingerprint nor a weapon, nor any other physical evidence connects Thomas Arthur to the murder of…