Alabama death penalty case far from over

By: The Associated Press
The Daily Comet
Thursday, March 29, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Though the scheduled Thursday execution of Thomas Douglas Arthur had been halted, the legal battle over the man convicted of a 1982 murder-for-hire is far from over.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a stay of execution, but it has yet to decide whether to reconsider an earlier decision to let Arthur challenge the execution protocol. Arthur contends Alabama's three-drug lethal injection process is cruel and unusual because a new anesthesia - pentobarbital - might not render an inmate unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered.

A judge had dismissed Arthur's appeal, but a three-member panel of the 11th Circuit last week overturned that dismissal. In light of Arthur's challenge going forward, his attorneys asked for a stay of execution.

Alabama's attorney general's office has requested that the full 11th Circuit reconsider the decision to allow Arthur's challenge to go forward.

If the court declines that request, Arthur - who has maintained his innocence for more than 29 years on death row - would be allowed to continue his challenge of the lethal injection process.

If the state prevails in its request, the attorney general's office would immediately file paperwork with the Alabama Supreme Court to have a new execution date set, said spokeswoman Joy Patterson.

The process to have the entire 11th Circuit vote on whether to reconsider a case, and then actually hear it, can be a lengthy one, said deputy court clerk Jennifer Tubbs.

Arthur has seen five execution dates pass without those being carried out.

According to court documents filed by the State of Alabama, Muscle Shoals businessman Troy Wicker's wife, Judy, testified that she had a sexual relationship with Arthur and paid him $10,000 to kill her husband.