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Last updated 2:06AM ET
February 26, 2021
APR News Reports
APR News Reports
DNA Causes Big Battle in Arthur Case
(2008-08-06)
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Attorneys for Thomas Arthur hope to use last week's stay of execution to introduce DNA testing into the case for the first time. But the Attorney General's office says Arthur's case should not be about DNA evidence. Alabama Public Radio's Brett Tannehill reports ...


Thomas Arthur was convicted of killing Troy Wicker in February of 1982 as Wicker slept in his home in Muscle Shoals. Prosecutors say it was part of a murder-for-hire scheme by the wife, Judy Wicker, who initially claimed to have also been raped that night by the assailant. The scheme was uncoverd and she was convicted and sent to prison - but she later recanted and testified Arthur was the killer. She's now out on probation. Arthur has always maintained his innocence. His current lawyer is Suhana Han

HAN-We are not at the point where we are saying Mr. Arthur should be let go. That has never been our position at this point. All we're saying at this point is we should be allowed to discover the truth. As part of that process, it would entail DNA testing.

DNA testing could be used for the first time in this 26-year-old case. Last week's stay of execution is likely tied to a confession, in which an inmate currently serving time for two other murders also claims responsibility for Wicker's death. The defense says it may have a hair sample that puts this person at the scene. But Attorney General Troy King says it's another smokescreen from Arthur, a man he calls "the Houdini of the death penalty". King says he opposes DNA testing now because Arthur's conviction never relied upon DNA evidence.

KING - This isn't a case about DNA testing. DNA testing to prove Judy Wicker had sex with Tommy Arthur is irrelevant. Tommy Arthur isn't in prison for the rape of Judy Wicker. He is in prison for the murder of Troy Wicker.

Defense attorneys also hope to test a rape kit gathered from Judy Wicker that night more potential DNA evidence that could place another person at the scene. But authorities can't find the kit misplaced evidence Suhana Han says could be critical.

HAN - We think we're entitled to explore the circumstances under which they no longer possess it. And we think we should be able to figure out at what point they realized they didn't have the rape kit. We've been asking for this since 2002 ... it was only in the past six month they made the inquiry. This is a capital case ... They should have taken every step to secure it from the outset.

KING-It's been a long time since this case occurred. I'm not going to make excuses for people who can't find the rape kit.

Again, attorney general Troy King

KING-Should we know where the rape kit is; yes we should. Should Tommy Arthur have died a long time ago; yes he should. So there were mistakes made all the way around. And the rape kit has nothing to do with whether Tommy Arthur is guilty and should be executed for his crimes.

Prosecutors say - after three trials in front of 36 different jurors; all of whom voted unanimously- that Thomas Arthur is guilty of capital murder. But his defense says there's a chance to test new evidence that may show someone else was at the Wicker's home that night. If that were true, new legal arguments that could tear the case apart, whether Arthur is guilty or not. Alabama State Bar president Mark White says introducing new DNA evidence into old cases creates a complicated struggle.

WHITE - Our system of justice has got to find a way with that kind of improvement in technology to avoid a situation where frankly, DNA exonerates someone after they've been executed. I don't think any person in this state wants to have to deal with that situation

Arthur's execution last December was stayed as the US Supreme Court considered a challenge to whether the lethal injection process was constitutional. The dismissal of that challenge brought Arthur's execution date scheduled for last Thursday. Both were stopped the day before. However, this time the delay could be much longer.


For APR News, I'm Brett Tannehill
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