Alabama contract killer's execution postponed for seventh time

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of execution for Tommy Arthur while it decides whether to hear his appeal.
By Stephen Feller  |  Updated Nov. 4, 2016 at 7:20 AM
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MONTGOMERY, Ala., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Thrice convicted contract killer Tommy Arthur managed to escape execution for a seventh time Thursday night, thanks to getting the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court hours before he was set to die.

Justice Clarence Thomas granted a temporary stay of execution so the court could review the case, however when it did not deliver a ruling before midnight, Arthur's execution had to be postponed because his execution order was going to expire.

While the court may not grant a full stay of execution -- if they decide not to review an appeal Arthur filed Wednesday, his execution will move forward -- the man referred to as "Houdini" for his ability to avoid the death sentence will live at least one more day.

"It is a temporary stay to prevent us from going forward with the execution until the Supreme Court makes a decision," said Bob Horton, public spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections. "We're in a holding pattern."

Arthur was scheduled to be executed Thursday at 6 p.m. after the U.S 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against him, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley did not grant him a stay of execution.

The state temporarily put the execution on hold for two hours, delaying it until 8 p.m., to give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to decide if it would hear Arthur's appeal. Around 9:30 p.m., Thomas issued a temporary stay because four justices wanted more time to consider whether to stop the execution and hear the appeal.

At 10:55 p.m., when the court still had not ruled, Horton announced the execution would not happen Thursday night.

The temporary stay will remain in place until the court decides whether or not to hear the appeal. If the court decides not to, Alabama can set Arthur's eighth execution date.

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