The 12th Execution of 2017
Convicted murderer Thomas Arthur, 75, of Alabama narrowly dodged execution seven times. Dubbed the “Houdini of death row” he was put to death on May 25, 2017. He was strapped to a gurney at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala., and injected with a cocktail of lethal drugs about 11:45 p.m. local time. according to the Los Angeles Times.
With his final words, Arthur apologized to his children. “I’m sorry for failing you as a father,” he said. “I love you more than anything on Earth.”
Arthur had initially been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m., but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay, signed by Justice Clarence Thomas. The nation’s highest court then went on to lift the stay an hour and 15 minutes before Arthur’s death warrant expired at midnight.
In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the court’s decision, arguing that she continued to doubt that one of the state’s execution drugs, midazolam, was capable of rendering prisoners unable to feel the “excruciating pain” of lethal injection. Alabama officials, she argued, had only compounded the risks by denying Arthur’s attorneys access to a phone in the witness room to contact the courts if any aspect of the execution went wrong.
“When Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber tonight, he will leave his constitutional rights at the door,” she wrote.
Arthur, who was first sentenced to death in 1983 when George Wallace was governor of Alabama, has spent more than 34 years on death row. In that time, 58 other Alabama inmates have been executed.
Arthur was convicted of the contract killing of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Wicker's wife had claimed she hired Arthur, who at the time was serving at a Decatur work release center for a conviction in the 1977 murder of his sister-in-law in Marion County.
Arthur has been on death row since March 1983, making him the third longest serving inmate on Alabama's Death Row. He's also the second oldest inmate there.
Arthur's original conviction in Wicker's death and a second conviction were overturned. He was convicted a third time in 1991, and that conviction was upheld. Arthur admits he killed his sister-in-law, but maintains he did not kill Wicker.
When the Alabama Supreme Court set this latest execution date for Arthur, it was the eighth time he's been scheduled to be put to death. The Alabama Attorney General's Office stated in its request to the court that it be done "as soon as possible." Arthur's previous execution dates were in: 2001, twice in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Several were stayed within one to two days of being carried out.
The Attorney General's office had sought Arthur's execution soon after he lost his federal court challenge on method of execution. Arthur, who claims the lethal injection method could be painful because of his health condition, appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Attorney General stated that Arthur's 2011 lawsuit over the execution method, as well as his current appeal, is an attempt to delay an execution. "His sentence is long overdue," the Attorney General's Office stated in 2016.
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