Alabama executes Tommy Arthur, 75, after 34 years on death row

By Mike Bambach and Andrew V. Pestano  |  May 25, 2017 at 12:18 PM
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May 25 (UPI) -- Alabama executed 75-year-old Tommy Arthur by lethal injection early Friday after he spent 34 years on death row.

The execution proceeded at 11:50 p.m. after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay it issued earlier Thursday, less than 30 minutes before Arthur's scheduled execution.

It began 10 minutes before the death warrant expired, said Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

"It went exactly according to protocol," he said.

Arthur, the second-oldest inmate on Alabama's death row, was convicted of the contract killing of Troy Wicker in 1982. He was scheduled for execution at 6 p.m. at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore before the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay.

U.S. courts stayed Arthur's executions seven previous times, earning him the nickname the "Houdini of death row."

The delays put Wicker's family through "living hell," Vicky Wilkerson, a niece to Troy Wicker told AL.com in an email.

"Although this statement may be perceived by others as not a very Christian statement," she added, "please do not judge because you haven't lived through this tragedy."

Arthur's case was tried three times -- each leading to convictions and death sentences. In the trial, Wicker's wife said she was having sexual relations with Arthur and offered him $10,000 of a life insurance payment if he killed her husband.

Arthur spent 34 years on death row as part of Alabama's appeals process. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is set to sign a bill on Friday requiring appeals to be filed more timely and requiring them to be filed simultaneously to shorten the duration of the appeals process.

Arthur's last-minute appeals by his attorneys argued the sedative used in the lethal injection is unreliable. The U.S. Supreme Court previously denied Arthur's challenges to Alabama's lethal injection use.

"No governor covets the responsibility of weighing the merits of life or death; but it is a burden I accept as part of my pledge to uphold the laws of this state," Ivey said in a statement.

"In allowing the execution to proceed this evening, the rule of law was upheld, and Mr. Wicker's family can finally rest knowing that his murderer has faced justice."

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