September 27, 2007

Justice Delayed...and Delayed and Delayed

A contract murderer just received a temporary stay of execution by the governor. This guy has had twenty-five years of life since the murder and his initial trial, but let's make sure that he is comfortable and had every chance.

I'm on the fence about capital punishment--not so much for it...unless one of my relatives was killed. However, justice delayed is justice denied, and justice has been delayed too long for the citizens and the murdered man's family, if there are any still around. In thinking about this issue, consider this case.

Governor grants stay of execution

MONTGOMERY – Gov. Bob Riley granted a 45-day stay of execution this morning to Thomas Douglas Arthur who was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore. ..."The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty and he will be executed for his crime," Riley said.

In a related article, I loved this classic comment from the murderer.

He admits he was having an affair with Troy Wicker's wife. He admits an earlier murder, for which he was still in work release when Wicker was killed. He admits shooting a jailer during an escape.

"I've got a checkered past," Arthur told me in 2001, "but I'm not running for citizen of the year."

What a joke! "Checkered past." Not "citizen of the year." By trying to brush off those crimes with such a flippant comment, this guy needs to be on Hillary Clinton's campaign staff.

Now, the same journalist who provided that quote had this to say at the end of her article about giving him another chance with one more time-delaying appeal.

He's not the best person in the world. He may not even be the best person on Death Row. But that's not the point. It's this: What kind of people are we?

Some people (I assume the writer is a liberal) are never happy. Am I responsible for what he did and the long-established laws of the state? And, forget that "we" business. The question needs to be switched to ask what kind of person is the murderer, besides not being "citizen of the year?" He committed the crime and got caught and now has to pay.

Now, here's my concern. I don't mind another forty-five day stay, but why does the process take so long, in this case twenty-five years, to carry out capital punishments? The guy could have died of old age first. I don't recommend that we adopt the system that had Saddam Hussein hanging three months after his conviction, even though I have to say that Iraq has a better handle on swift and sure punishment.

But, we either change the laws and do away with capital punishment or we carry out the laws on a timely basis, without unreasonable time delays, for the sake of justice for the citizens and for the families of the murdered.

Oh, and I don't want to even think about what the frivolous delays have cost the taxpayers or how that money could be used to improve the prisons for others, but that's a financial and a moral issue rather than a legal and a moral issue.

Capital punishment - it may be repealed but, until such time, it should be administered in a timely manner in accordance with justice.

For earlier details on the conviction and appeals, click on "Read More."


3/23/01 - Alabama

Killer who "knows how to work the system" lets appeal deadlines expire

The Alabama Supreme Court set an April 27, 2001 execution date for a man who asked to be sentenced to death knowing he would get an automatic appeal and better accommodations in prison. Convicted murderer Tommy Arthur was sentenced to die in Alabama's electric chair for killing Troy Wicker in a 1982 murder for-hire scheme in Muscle Shoals. The decision to set the execution date was unusual because Arthur's appeal has yet to be heard in federal court, as is routine in capital murder cases. Arthur recently filed papers in state court that include a claim that new evidence will prove him innocent. Clay Crenshaw, an assistant attorney general who asked the Supreme Court to set the execution date, said Arthur has not filed appeals when he was supposed to. "It is our position that he has waived his appeals," Crenshaw said. Crenshaw, who heads the capital litigation section in the attorney general's office, said his office, and apparently the Supreme Court, agree that Arthur has run out of legal appeals. "This is an oddball case because he technically does have appeals left, but it's our position he does not because he has not timely filed petitions," Crenshaw said. "Anything he has left is beyond the statute of limitations." A defense lawyer who specializes in death penalty appeals said Arthur didn't appeal because he couldn't find a lawyer. Alabama does not provide attorneys for condemned inmates. "It's somewhat unprecedented to schedule an execution without federal review," said Bryan Stevenson, who heads the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. Arthur has been convicted and sentenced to death three times for shooting Wicker, a riverboat engineer, to death on Feb. 1, 1982. Wicker's wife, Judy Wicker, testified she had sex with Arthur before the killing and paid him $10,000 from her husband's life insurance policy for the slaying. Mrs. Wicker was convicted as an accomplice and was sentenced to life in prison. During sentencing, Arthur asked jurors to recommend death. He told them a capital sentence would mean automatic appeals, better accommodations in prison and liberal access to the prison law library. Crenshaw said Arthur "knows how to work the system." Arthur's appellate court record shows why it's taken nearly 19 years to send him to the electric chair: "After 3 trials, 4 appellate reviews, approximately 10 different attorneys and numerous delays and continuances, Arthur raises over 40 issues before this court," the Supreme Court said Nov. 21, 1997, when it last upheld his conviction. Arthur has not exhausted all of his federal appeals, but officials in the Alabama attorney general's office say he failed to meet filing deadlines on the appeals. Tuscumbia attorney William Hovater, who represented Arthur during his 2nd trial and later had the conviction successfully appealed, said Arthur called him Friday after learning that an execution date had been scheduled. "He said he called me because I was the only one he could trust," Hovater said. "He wanted me to check to make sure if he had any appeals available. I told him I would. "He was pretty upbeat and didn't sound like someone who had just been told the day he was going to be executed. He was confident there will be some appellate measure to help him avoid this." Hovater said Arthur told him that he hopes to draw attention to the fact that people who have exhausted their appeals on the state level no longer have an attorney appointed to represent them. He said Arthur continues to maintain his innocence. Arthur recently filed documents in state court claiming that he has new evidence proving he is innocent. The papers do not elaborate on the new evidence. Crenshaw said this is further evidence of Arthur "working the system." His request to the jury that he receive the death penalty is an example of the way he used the system. He told jurors that a death sentence would mean an automatic appeal and access to the prison law library among other accommodations. Arthur was eligible for the death penalty because he already had been convicted of killing someone before the Wicker slaying. He was convicted in 1977 of killing the sister of his common-law wife. Arthur was sentenced to life in prison in that case. The victim in that case was shot in the right eye, just as Wicker was killed. A person convicted of 2 murders within five years can be tried for capital murder. Arthur was convicted 1st in 1985, but that conviction was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court because details of the 1977 murder conviction were improperly admitted at the trial. Arthur was serving time in a Decatur work-release center for that killing when Wicker was murdered. Arthur escaped from the Colbert County jail in 1986 while awaiting the start of his second trial. Jailer James Conley was shot during the escape. Arthur was captured less than 2 months later in Knoxville, where he was accused of bank robbbery. His 2nd conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals because of improper evidence, Hovater said. Judy Wicker testified in the 2nd trial after declining to do so in the 1st trial.

Posted by Woody M. at September 27, 2007 08:00 PM

"but why does the process take so long"

Yeah, let's fry 'em the moment they get convicted. I mean, we all know the court NEVER makes mistakes, right? And if the court does make a mistake, so what? Two wrongs certainly DO make a right... Right? Hello? Tap... tap... tap... Is this thing on?

Posted by e. nonee moose at September 30, 2007 12:15 AM

Welcome back, Moose. I've missed you for a few weeks.

There is no doubt as to the guilt of this convicted contract murderer. Plus, twenty-five years isn't exactly rushing into the execution. Liberals are too concerned with the fates of the killers than of the victims.

Posted by Woody at September 30, 2007 08:07 AM

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