I Talked to a Man on Alabama’s Death Row. The State Plans to Kill Him Tonight.
May 25, 2017 - accent chair
Alabama has been perplexing to put Thomas Arthur to genocide for some-more than 30 years. The 75-year-old inmate, who has consistently confirmed his ignorance for a 1982 murder, has had 3 trials and survived 7 execution dates given 2001. On Thursday, Alabama will try to govern him again.
“I didn’t have anything to do with this,” he tells Mother Jones from a Holman Correctional Facility, where Alabama houses many of those on genocide row. “I gave ’em hair and apart and everything…and they found nothing.”
I spoke with Arthur a week he is scheduled to die. His lawyers organised for a 30-minute phone examination to give him a possibility to tell his story, maybe for a final time. He spoke rapidly, stumbling over some sentences in a abounding Southern accent that infrequently confused a clarity of his words. But there was no miss of clarity in his reflections of what it has been like to be one of a initial inmates sent to genocide quarrel in Alabama—after a use was backed after a 1976 landmark Supreme Court ruling—and to live there for 34 years.
During that time, his health has deteriorated, and he has stood by while 58 other inmates were executed. Holman, like many of Alabama’s prisons, became overcrowded and crumbling and was the stage of a riot in 2016. He has watched a methods of execution change, from a electric chair to midazolam, a controversial drug that will be used on him, despite efforts his lawyers have made to remonstrate a courts that given his heart condition, a drug competence not be effective and would expected means undue suffering. He has also had a extensive preparation in a rapist probity complement from 3 opposite trials and a 7 times he believed he would die, usually to have his execution postponed. At this point, Arthur still hopes for DNA justification to infer his innocence. “If they only let [my lawyers] in a courtroom,” he says, “we wouldn’t be during this juncture.”
Arthur’s tour to genocide quarrel began on February 1, 1982, when Troy Wicker was shot and killed in his bed in a northwest Alabama city of Muscle Shoals. On a day of a murder, his wife, Judy Wicker, told military that she came home after holding her children to propagandize to find a black male in her home. She claimed that a antagonist raped her, knocked her unconscious, and shot her husband. Police found bullets though no murder weapon. Wicker went to a sanatorium and her rape pack was subsequently lost.
Judy was a suburban mom and Arthur was a convicted criminal—he was portion time for carrying shot and killed his common-law wife’s sister in 1977. “When we took [her] life, ethanol was a factor,” he says. “I shouldn’t have shot that girl.” Arthur had been given a life sentence, though after only 4 years he was participating in a jail work-release program, where an invalid is let out of a jail trickery during a day for practice and devoted to lapse to jail in a evening. That’s when Judy Wicker and Thomas Arthur began having an affair.
Police didn’t find Wicker’s outline of a resources of her husband’s genocide convincing and charged her with murder-for-hire. They also arrested Arthur and charged him with aggravated murder. At her 1982 trial, where Wicker testified that Arthur was not concerned in a murder, she was given a life sentence. At a apart 1983 trial, prosecutors argued Arthur shot and killed Wicker for $10,000—part of a life word Wicker perceived on her husband’s death. Despite his damning record, Arthur insisted he had zero to do with this crime. Nonetheless, he was convicted, condemned to death, and taken to Holman Correctional facility.
The Holman Correctional Facility is scarcely 50 years aged and located in farming Escambia County. On genocide row, a cells are tiny. “We’re, like, sandwiched in here,” Arthur says. “I live in a dungeon we can’t put a baboon in.” A heart condition prevents him from sportive or spending time in a yard like other genocide quarrel inmates do. “I’m in here 24 hours a day. Been like that for 10 years.” He spends many of his days examination a news and daytime soap operas—Days of a Lives, for instance, and a Young and a Restless—on a TV that his lawyers bought for him in 2003. In a final session, a Alabama Legislature took adult a check to build adult to four new state prisons by borrowing adult to $800 million. “We got toilet H2O regulating down a walls all over genocide row,” Arthur claims. “They wish to spend $800 million for new prisons when they could spend $200 [million] to repair a ones they already have!” he says incredulously.
Arthur was granted a retrial after his initial self-assurance was overturned given sum of his prior murder self-assurance were introduced in a trial. In 1986, while accessible retrial, Arthur was reason in a county jail. He escaped after sharpened a jail central in a neck, though a ensure survived. Arthur got as distant as Knoxville, Tennessee, where FBI agents found him a month after after he attacked a bank. The following year, he was convicted and condemned to genocide again.
His second self-assurance was overturned on seductiveness given in 1982 Arthur was interviewed by an questioner though an profession present. He was postulated nonetheless another trial. According to Amnesty International, an general tellurian rights classification that is opposite a genocide penalty, it was afterwards that a prosecutor asked a state’s release house if Judy Wicker could get an early release if she testified opposite Arthur. At a 1991 retrial, Wicker altered her story, implicating Arthur in a murder. She was paroled a year later, after portion only 10 years in prison.
In Furman v. Georgia, in 1972, a US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 preference that collateral punishment was unconstitutional, crude executions nationwide. Four years later, a high justice topsy-turvy march in Gregg v. Georgia and ruled that a genocide chastisement was not vicious and surprising punishment.
The initial time Alabama attempted to put Arthur to genocide was in 2001, though he received a stay dual days before a scheduled execution date so sovereign courts could hear hurdles concerning a fact that he had no illustration when his initial execution date was set. This began a duration of execution dates and stays of execution. After several authorised hurdles were dismissed, Alabama set another execution date for Arthur in Sep 2007. Once some-more he prepared himself to be executed, though he was spared when a state itself requested a 45-day reprieve in sequence to change a drug custom for fatal injections. Around this time, various inmates had challenged fatal injection protocols in their states. A few months later, in Dec 2007, Arthur perceived another stay from a US Supreme Court given it was deliberation a plea in Kentucky over a really identical fatal injection protocol. His fourth execution date was designed for 2008.
Then an inmate, Bobby Ray Gilbert, during another Alabama prison, confessed to a crime. Arthur filed a petition claiming innocence, and a execution was stayed so a justice could reason a singular hearing. No earthy justification related Gilbert to a crime, and a justice resolved Gilbert was fibbing to strengthen Arthur. Prosecutors have enlarged reason that Troy Wicker’s torpedo wore a wig, though none of Arthur’s DNA was on that wig or on a garments Judy Wicker wore on a day of a murder. “I am totally innocent,” Arthur insists. “And DNA could infer it.”
Until 2002, Alabama used a electric chair to govern inmates. “You could smell them,” Arthur says about a inmates being executed. “You could indeed smell a strength burning.” His subsequent dual scheduled executions in 2012 and 2015 were stayed given of Arthur’s hurdles to a state’s drug protocol, that enclosed a sedative, pentobarbital. But afterwards came a introduction of a argumentative opiate midazolam for executions. After mixed states faced a necessity of fatal injection drugs, Alabama began regulating midazolam early final year with a execution of Christopher Brooks in January. Nearly a year later, in Dec 2016, a state executed Ronald Bert Smith Jr. After administering a drug, Smith reportedly struggled for breath, coughed, heaved and clenched his left fist for 13 minutes.
Arthur’s seventh execution date was scheduled for Nov 3, 2016. His box claiming a fatal injection custom used by a state could means agonizing pain was discharged by a sovereign court. Despite a widespread acceptance that fatal injection is humane, there is no systematic research to infer it.
Under a 2015 Supreme Court box Glossip v. Gross, a use of midazolam does not violate a Eighth Amendment, that prohibits vicious and surprising punishment and manners that states contingency have a prepared and accessible choice if one form of execution falls into that category. In his appeal, Arthur due a use of banishment squad. The justice discharged his case, observant that given Alabama law does not specifically concede banishment squads, it was not a viable alternative.
That night, a Supreme Court postulated a stay tentative a examination of his claims. But in February, it declined to hear his appeal. In an 18-page dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pronounced a use of midazolam could lead to “prolonged torture” of inmates. “Condemned prisoners, like Arthur, competence find some-more grace in an immediate death,” she wrote, “rather than enlarged woe on a medical gurney.”
In April, Arthur’s lawyers wrote to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in hopes of removing serve DNA testing. His warn remarkable that some-more modernized record was accessible and they would assume a costs of a test. Ivey incited down their request. A few weeks later, Arthur sent a handwritten note seeking Ivey to gangling his life. “Please do not let me die for a crime we did not commit,” he wrote.
The decades of capture have taken a fee on him. “One time we was a median decent looking fellow,” he says with a laugh. “Now, we demeanour like I’ve been strike by a truck.”
And now, as he faces his subsequent and expected final execution date, Arthur says ruefully, “I giggle to keep from crying.” But he is uneasy about a life he lost, how his 4 children never truly had a father, and how most he regrets not being there for them. “I wish to publicly apologize in box they do kill me,” he says. “I wish a open to know that we unsuccessful them as a father.” He also has no seductiveness in a common formalities concomitant executions in America. “I’m not going to a eat a final meal, that would come during taxpayer expense,” he says.
What is it like to face genocide so many times? “It’s a same thing each time,” he says with a sigh. “Everyone has a fear of dying…but a state of Alabama is going to—and we don’t use this word lightly—murder me for something we didn’t do.”