POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Alabama Denies DNA Testing for Man Facing Execution

Alabama recently set an execution date for Thomas Arthur (pictured), who was convicted of a murder that took place 30 years ago. Arthur has always maintained his innocence, but has been denied access to DNA evidence that might lead to a different verdict. As Andrew Cohen pointed out in an investigative piece in The Atlantic, Arthur is scheduled for execution on March 29, despite the confession of Bobby Ray Gilbert to the crime for which Arthur is facing execution. There was no physical evidence that linked Arthur to the murder, and his sentence was secured almost entirely by the testimony of the victim’s wife, Judy Wicker. At first, Wicker told the authorities that Arthur was not involved in the crime, but when she was convicted for hiring someone to murder her husband, she arranged a deal with the prosecution. In exchange for a recommendation of early release from prison, she changed her original testimony and implicated Arthur. Since then, Gilbert has testified under oath to the murder. Gilbert said he had an affair with Wicker and soon agreed to kill her husband. State courts, however, have ruled that Gilbert’s confession was not credible, and have opposed DNA testing on an item recovered from the crime scene that could identify who was actually involved in the crime. Arthur’s attorneys have agreed to pay for the DNA testing.

(A. Cohen, “Another Death Row Debacle: The Case Against Thomas Arthur,” The Atlantic, February 27, 2012; A. Rosenthal, “Death Penalty Death Watch: Is Alabama About to Execute an Innocent Man?” New York Times, February 27, 2012). See Innocence.