‘Death Row Houdini’ Dodges 7 Executions, But The Eighth One Sticks

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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Thomas Arthur dodged seven executions since he was convicted of the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, but he was finally executed in Alabama Friday after 34 years on Death Row, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Arthur faced his first death sentence 1983. His victim’s wife, Judy Wicker, originally testified that she had been raped and knocked unconscious by a black man who had then killed her husband, but she later confessed to having hired Arthur to kill him, and that Arthur committed the deed wearing black-face and a wig.

Arthur spent 34 years on death row, and in that time Alabama executed 58 other inmates. Arthur owed his survival to a pro bono legal team who consistently fought against the legality of capital punishment. His team represented him in dozens of appeals, challenging lethal injection as an immoral method of execution, and arguing that many death row inmates experienced excruciating pain during their executions because anesthetics failed to put them under.

Arthur had his closest call in November 2016, when the Supreme Court issued a stay on his execution minutes before he was escorted from his cell to the execution table.

Following the November stay order, Arthur’s team tried to get an appeal for his eighth execution by requesting a DNA test of the wig he had worn during the murder, which had been impossible during his trial in 1983. The request was denied, and as a result, all that stood between Arthur and execution was the possibility of another Supreme Court stay order.

The Supreme Court did issue a stay on his execution, which was originally scheduled for 6pm Thursday, but the Court later rescinded it, allowing his execution to take place.

“There is no reason why anyone should be on death row for 34 years,” said Janette Grantham, an Alabama victim rights group official. “He’s a Houdini. He has this bag of tricks and he knows how to manipulate the system. All the appeals are just a delay tactic. I’ve seen and heard it all and he is guilty.”

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