Alabama scheduled to execute man in ’82 murder-for-hire

AP-Tommy Arthur
FILE - This undated photo, provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections, shows Tommy Arthur, in a photo taken at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. An appellate court on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, refused to halt the execution of Alabama inmate Arthur, who was convicted in the 1982 killing of a man in a murder-for-hire arrangement. In a split decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's decision that dismissed Arthur's lawsuit challenging the state's death penalty procedure as unconstitutional. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP, File)

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man convicted of the 1982 shooting death of a woman’s husband in a murder-for-hire arrangement was set to be executed Thursday evening.

Tommy Arthur, now 74, was convicted of killing Troy Wicker with a shot through the eye as he slept in his Muscle Shoals home that year.

Wicker’s wife initially told authorities she had been raped and that an intruder killed her husband, but she later testified she had sex with Arthur and promised him $10,000 to kill her husband. At the time of Wicker’s death, Arthur was in a prison work-release program after being convicted of the 1977 murder of his sister-in-law.

Arthur’s execution time was pushed back at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore as the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Arthur’s request for a stay, officials said. The court granted a temporary stay late Thursday, until further order of the court.

Prison system spokesman Bob Horton said the state will wait until Arthur’s death warrant expires at midnight to see if the execution can proceed.

Juries twice convicted Arthur, but those convictions were overturned on appeal. During his third trial in 1991, Arthur ignored the advice of his attorneys and asked the jury to sentence him to death. He said at the time that he didn’t have a death wish, but it was a way of opening more avenues of appeal.

Arthur has waged a lengthy legal battle challenging both his conviction and the constitutionality of the death penalty. The Alabama Supreme Court has previously set six execution dates for Arthur, but he won reprieves each time with some stays coming hours before he was set to die.

The Alabama attorney general’s office in July had asked the court to set an “expedited seventh execution date” after a federal judge dismissed Arthur’s latest challenge to state death penalty procedures.

Arthur, who has maintained his innocence, sent Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley a four-page handwritten letter requesting a stay of execution, arguing he had never had a fair trial and that potential DNA evidence in the case had not been reviewed.

“I’m not guilty and did not have a fair trial in 1991,” Arthur wrote.

Arthur’s attorneys filed two requests Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution. They argued that Arthur was sentenced under a similar structure that was ruled unconstitutional in Florida because it put too much power in the hands of judges. A judge sentenced Arthur to die after a jury recommended a death sentence by an 11-1 vote.

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that there were enough differences from Florida to make Alabama’s sentencing method constitutional.

Arthur’s second stay request late Thursday to the U.S. Supreme Court was based on a challenge to Alabama’s lethal injection process. His attorneys argued a federal judge misapplied a requirement for inmates to name an alternate execution method and prevented Arthur’s lawsuit from moving forward. Arthur suggested a firing squad and another lethal injection drug, but the judge said Arthur had not identified a source for alternate drugs and a firing squad wasn’t explicitly named as an allowed form of execution in Alabama law.

The Alabama Attorney general’s office urged the high court to let the execution go forward.

“The prior six execution dates were stayed based on Arthur’s long-term manipulation of the federal and state courts through civil litigation and successive collateral attacks,” attorneys for the state wrote in a response Thursday with the high court.

Wicker’s wife, Judy Wicker, served 10 years in prison for her part in the killing, records show.

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