Thomas Arthur: The Man Who Was Innocent
For over 30 years, Thomas Arthur has been sitting on Alabama’s death row. Arthur was charged and convicted of killing Troy Wicker back in 1982. But throughout the years, Arthur has always maintained he was innocent.
It was not until recent a federal court stayed Arthur’s March 29 execution date, but ultimately that stay could be lifted at any moment, and it was. Arthur was executed on May 25, 2017.
But the real question about Thomas Arthur’s case is why did the state of Alabama execute a man without allowing him to do some DNA testing that could potentially prove he was indeed innocence?
Thomas Arthur Case
Thomas Arthur has spent the better of a few decades on Alabama’s death row for a crime he allegedly did not commit. Arthur was convicted on testimony from a convicted murderer that had a reason to put Arthur in prison. However, you should know that Arthur is should not be brought into light as a sympathetic figure either.
Then in 1986 while Arthur was waiting for his second trial, he escaped from the jail by shooting at one of the jail officers. So, just by looking at his past criminal records throughout the decades prior to this conviction you’ll notice that something is extremely wrong here. The state of Alabama tried three times to convict Arthur for the murder of Troy Wicker that happened on February 1, 1982. During all three times the state convicted him, gave him the death penalty, but also these three times there were always problems during the trial.
Many of these things have been litigated yet again and again from the federal level and even the state level. What’s more important is that the state of Alabama has based Arthurs entire case upon the testimony of Judy Wicker, Troy Wickers wife. Judy had testified that during the time of the murder she was raped by a stranger. The state investigators question Judy if Thomas Arthur repeatedly, if he was a part of the crime, she always said no.
What really happened though?
Judy Wicker was caught in a big lie. It finally came to light that Judy hired someone to murder her husband, Troy and she got caught red-handed. It was not until several months after Troy’s death that Wicker was convicted of murdering her husband, Troy and she was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
But then a few short years later she made a deal with the prosecutors. The deal was in exchange for Judy to get an early release from prison, if she would alter her testimony and accuse Thomas Arthur of killing her husband, Troy.
This is what exactly happened. Judy testimony was what really put the nail in the coffin and convicted Arthur for the third and final time.
The Other Man
Remember when Judy stated in the beginning of all this mess that Thomas Arthur did not have anything to do with her husband, Troy’s death?
Well, let’s fast forward to the year 2008. This is when things got much stickier. Bobby Ray Gilbert came out of hiding. Gilbert confessed to murdering Troy Wicker under oath. Gilbert confessed in an affidavit that he was having an affair with Judy and how they met a bar and they both agreed that Gilbert would kill her husband, Troy. Judy was telling Gilbert how Troy was such an abusive husband to her.
Once everything was planned and agreed upon Gilbert stated that he would wear an afro wig along with dark make-up to disguise himself. Gilbert would then shoot Troy while after the murder Gilbert and Judy would have unprotected sex and Judy would ask Gilbert to beat her up, so she got raped.
But the main question on everyone’s mind was why did it take over 25 years for Gilbert to come and confess to investigators? Gilbert stated that he did not come forward sooner because he was worried that he would get the death penalty. Gilbert only decided to confess to the murder after the United States Supreme Court ruled that a juvenile at the current time of when the crime was committed could not get the death penalty. What Gilbert was referring to be the United States Supreme Court’s decision in March of 2005 when they violated the 8th Amendment.
The Ultimate Hearing
For Thomas Arthur, the confession of Gilbert could not have come at a better time. Arthur had an execution date set for in 2008, but the Alabama Supreme Court put a stay on that and gave him a hearing along with the opportunity to test the DNA on the key pieces of evidence in the case.
When testing the DNA nothing linked Gilbert or Arthur to any of the key pieces of evidences that were tested. However, there was one vital item missing from the evidence box: Judy’s rape kit. It was suspected that, that rape kit could have been the critical piece of evidence that would have linked Gilbert to Wicker had it not went missing prior to Arthur’s final trial in 1991.
When Arthur called Gilbert to the witness stand during his hearing to essentially repeat in an open courtroom where Gilbert can be subjected to cross-examination to what he said in his affidavit, Gilbert decided to use his 5th Amendment and stay silent.
Arthurs attorneys stated the reason why Gilbert stayed silent was due to being punished by the prison officials after he confessed to the murder. However, the state of Alabama denies that any sort of coercion went on against Gilbert.
However, during the hearing Judy who for years in the past exonerated Arthur testified. She testified that Gilbert was completely lying.
The judge presiding over this trial did not believe Gilbert’s story at all. In fact, the judge ruled that both Arthur and Gilbert were trying to commit fraud in the courtroom. The judge ultimately that the lack of DNA evidence did not link either Arthur or Gilbert to the crime, which went hand in hand with proving that Gilbert’s confession was also not true.
Alabama Death Row & Execution
As of lately, the prosecutors have been fighting tooth and nail to stop the defendants from having the chance to run post-conviction DNA testing. For instance, Hank Skinner was sitting on death row since 1995. Skinner’s case is very similar to Arthur’s case with the lack of DNA and the recanting of witnesses.
Thomas Arthur was able to escape seven execution dates for his unlawful conviction of the 1982 murder. Arthur was officially executed on May 25, 2017 at 12:15 am in an Alabama state prison by lethal injection.