On February 1, 1982, at
9:12 A.M., police officers were called to the residence of Mary Jewel
“Judy” Wicker and Troy Wicker in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
The officers found Troy
murdered in his bed; his wife, Judy Wicker, lying on the floor with
traces of blood on her face; and her sister, Teresa Rowland kneeling
beside her. The investigators found four .22-caliber expended cartridge
cases on the bed.
An autopsy revealed
that Troy’s death was caused by a close range wound through his right
eye from a .22-caliber long rifle bullet which severed his brain stem.
Wicker told the
investigators that, after she had dropped her children off at school,
she had returned to find an African American man in her home. She said
that the man raped her, knocked her unconscious, and shot Troy.
Wicker was subsequently
charged and convicted of murdering Troy to collect insurance proceeds,
and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Some time after
Wicker’s conviction, the prosecuting district attorney appeared before
the parole board to inquire about the possibility of an early release in
exchange for Wicker’s testimony against Arthur.
Wicker’s daughter, Tina
Jenkins, retained attorney Gary Alverson to appear at this meeting on
her behalf. Alverson was later hired as a state prosecutor. In 1991,
during Arthur’s trial for Troy’s murder, Alverson represented the state
and Wicker testified as the prosecution’s main witness.
She explained that she
had known Arthur since they were both young and worked at Tidwell Homes.
She revealed that she, Rowland, and Rowland’s boyfriend, Theron McKinney
had discussed killing Troy beginning in early 1981.
Wicker explained that
Troy was physically violent with her, and that Rowland and Troy often
argued when Troy threatened to turn Rowland in to the police for the
arson on her home which he had committed for her.
Wicker recalled that
she received a telephone call from Arthur in November 1981 in which he
told her that he had been “hired to do the job . . . to kill her husband.”
She saw him the next week and began a sexual relationship with him.
At that time, Arthur
was residing at the Decatur Work Release Center and was assigned to work
at Reagin Mobile Homes.
Wicker testified that
she knew that the murder was to take place on February 1, 1982, and that
she had agreed to tell the police that her home was burglarized and that
her husband was murdered by an African American man.
She explained that, on
the day of the murder, she met Rowland and Arthur at the airport. She
stated that Arthur, who had been drinking and was carrying a gun and a
garbage bag, had painted his face black and put on an Afro wig and black
She testified that
Arthur got into her car and, while driving him to her house, she urged
him not to kill Troy. She stated that, after they arrived at her house,
she heard a shot and that Arthur then struck her, knocked out several of
her teeth, and lacerated her lip.
Wicker admitted that,
after she collected $90,000 in insurance proceeds from Troy’s death, she
paid Arthur $10,000, paid Rowland $6,000, and gave McKinney jewelry and
a car for their assistance in the murder. She also admitted that she
continued her relationship with Arthur after the murder. Wicker’s
testimony was corroborated by other witnesses and evidence.
Muscle Shoals Police
Sergeant Eddie Lang testified that, while he was working at a school
crossing about 7:40 A.M. on February 1, he observed Wicker driving east
toward the airport and, about 10 minutes later, returning toward her
house. He did not see anyone in the car with her during either trip.
The work release
facility’s records for the day of the murder showed that Arthur had
signed out of work release at 6:00 A.M. and had not returned until 7:50
Joel Reagin, the owner
of Reagin Mobile Homes, was unable to say whether Arthur was at work on
the day of the murder. He remembered, however, having seen Wicker and
Arthur together at Reagin Mobile Homes while Arthur was working there.
Green, a waitress at Cher’s Lounge, testified that, on January 31, 1981,
the day before the murder, Arthur asked her to send a friend to purchase
.22-caliber Mini-Mag long rifle bullets for him and gave her $10 for the
She said that, while
they were waiting for the friend to return with the bullets, Arthur told
her that they would be used to kill someone. She gave the bullets to
Arthur when she received them.
Debra Lynn Phillips
Tynes, the manager of Cher’s, went to lunch with Arthur on the day of
the murder. While they were out, Arthur drove to a bridge over the
Tennessee River, stopped the car, and dropped a black garbage bag into
the river. She said that he explained to her that he wanted to get rid
of some old memories.
On the day of the
murder, Wicker’s automobile was found in the parking lot at Northwest
Junior College in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Inside the car, officers found
Wicker’s purse and an Afro wig; the inside of the wig contained no human
In March 1982,
officials at the work release center discovered a discrepancy between
the amount of time that Arthur had logged as being at work and the
amount of money that he had been paid for that work, and transferred him
to the county jail pending investigation.
After he left the work
release center, his personal belongings at the work release center were
inventoried and a Reagin Mobile Homes envelope containing $2000 was
In April 1982, Arthur
was interviewed by a Muscle Shoals Police Department detective and
denied knowing anything about Troy’s homicide or knowing Wicker or
Rowland. When the officer confronted Arthur with contrary information,
Arthur asked to see an attorney and refused to make any further comments.
Arthur was indicted and
charged with intentionally murdering Troy by shooting him with a pistol
after having been convicted of second degree murder. He was convicted
and sentenced to death in 1982.
Riley stayed the execution of a contract killer Thursday, hours before
it was to have been carried out, so the inmate could be put to death
using a new lethal injection formula the governor had ordered just a day
Riley said he issued
the 45-day stay of Tommy Arthur's execution only to allow time for the
new lethal-injection procedures to be put in place. The changes are
designed to make sure the inmate is unconscious when given drugs to stop
the heart and lungs. Riley said evidence is "overwhelming" that Arthur
is guilty "and he will be executed for his crime."
The governor encouraged
the attorney general's office to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to set
another execution date "as soon as possible." Assistant Attorney General
Clay Crenshaw said the request would be filed with the court Friday.
Execution date set for Tommy Arthur
By Tom Smith - TimesDaily.com
June 23. 2007
For the second time in 25 years, an execution date
has been set for Tommy Arthur.
On Friday morning, the Alabama Supreme Court set Sept.
27 as the execution date for the 65-year-old Arthur, who was convicted
of the murder-for-hire killing of his girlfriend's husband in Muscle
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review
an appeal for Arthur, setting the stage for his execution.
"A lot of people will not believe it until it happens,''
said former Colbert County District Attorney James A. "Jap'' Patton, who
prosecuted Arthur for what turned out to be the first of three times he
would be convicted in the case.
This is Arthur's second execution date. He was
originally scheduled to die in April 2001, but received a delay from a
federal judge so he could pursue another appeal.
After that appeal was denied, Alabama Attorney
General Troy King requested the state Supreme Court set a new execution
Arthur was convicted of capital murder and sentenced
to death for shooting Troy Wicker, of Muscle Shoals, through the right
eye as he slept. The victim's wife, Judy Wicker, was involved with
Arthur and testified she paid him $10,000 to kill her husband in 1981.
Arthur was convicted and sentenced to death the first
time on Feb. 19, 1983. That decision was overturned. In fact, two of his
convictions were overturned.
On Dec. 5, 1991, Arthur, for the third time, was
found guilty and sentenced to death.
"We'll see what happens,'' Patton said after hearing
of the new execution date. "We've been there before (with a date set).
"He's had several chances, a lot of chances, and he's
still around, but thankfully still locked up.''
Arthur came within seven hours of execution in April
2001, when a stay was granted on his claim that he did not have an
attorney to handle his appeals. The courts later refused his bid for a
Judy Wicker was found guilty as an accomplice and was
released after serving 10 years of a life sentence.
At the time of the killing, Arthur was in a prison
work-release center in Decatur, serving a sentence for second-degree
murder for killing his sister-in-law in Marion County.
Arthur has continued to maintain his innocence, and
has filed two actions in federal court seeking a stay of his execution
and reversal of his case, according to Clay Crenshaw, director of the
attorney general's capital litigation section.
Crenshaw said Arthur seeks DNA testing and a separate
action alleging that lethal injection is unconstitutional because it's
cruel and unusual punishment.
"Every inmate comes with filing a lethal injection
lawsuit," Crenshaw said. "They try to delay their executions.''
He said Arthur can continue to appeal his execution
in federal courts up until the last minute.
There are 199 inmates on death row in Alabama,
according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. Nine have been on
death row longer than Arthur, with the longest being moved there on May
Alabama's fierce death row battle
By Matt Wells - BBC News
21 Oct 07
If most politicians in Alabama had their way,
Tommy Arthur would have been executed more than 20 years ago.
The 65-year-old, whose death sentence was overturned
twice before a third jury convicted him in the early 1990s, is alive on
the state's death row - but only just.
Although no physical evidence placed him at the scene,
he was convicted of shooting Troy Wicker in his bed after being paid
$10,000 by the victim's wife, with whom he had had an affair.
The twists and turns of the case, and the tangled
relationships involved, are worthy of a grim detective novel. But
ultimately the jury, and state law, dictated Arthur should die.
He missed his last appointment with a lethal-injection
syringe by only a few hours at the end of last month.
Alabama's governor has made it clear he wants Arthur
to die as soon as possible, and that the current furore over the
chemicals used to deliver the ultimate punishment is an annoying
Although many death penalty abolitionists are viewing
the US Supreme Court's decision to review the constitutionality of the
existing chemical cocktail with hope, the fact is that states like
Alabama guard their rights very carefully - and few more so than the
right to execution.
'I want justice'
The founder of Alabama victims' rights group VOCAL (Victims
of Crime and Leniency), Miriam Shenane, is more than just irritated by
Arthur's latest stay of execution.
She says the governor has traumatised the victim's
family, and others all over the state.
"What do we have to do? Put a mask over them and just
take away their oxygen? I want justice," she said, in her office in the
state capital, Montgomery.
The white walls are covered in photographs of "angels"
- the word she uses to describe all the innocent people who have been
murdered in Alabama.
Her own daughter was raped and murdered by three men,
one of whom has been executed.
She would feel much better if the other two followed
him. "Putting them to death, even with the electric chair, is not nearly
as horrible as what they did to my daughter."
'Murder my father'
Tommy Arthur's daughter, Sherrie Arthur Stone, was
still a teenager when her father was first sentenced to death.
For years, she thought he was probably guilty, and
deserved the jail time he spent earlier in his life.
But now she is convinced of his innocence, fuelled
largely by her disillusionment with a judicial system she views as
callous and incompetent in Alabama.
Articulate and earnest, but clearly scarred by years
of legal and emotional battle, she stopped living in the state a long
"I was basically told by investigators, if I didn't
leave the state, I'd be found dead on a back road," she told the BBC.
"They clearly want to murder my father, which is what
this is going to be. It's not going to be an execution, it's going to be
Amnesty International supports her argument that DNA
testing of the evidence - which has yet to take place - could exonerate
Tool of justice
The state is equally adamant that they will not allow
that to happen - even if Arthur's family pays for the DNA testing.
"There have been three federal judges now... they
have all agreed that the results of DNA testing would not show that
Arthur is innocent," said Clay Crenshaw, Alabama's deputy attorney
general in charge of capital cases.
It might strike many as a paradox, but Mr Crenshaw
believes that in a culture that values human life above all, the right
to take that life away is an essential tool of justice.
"The reason to have the death penalty is to keep
those people who commit these violent acts off of the street, and
hopefully prevent other people from committing those type of crimes," he
He believes that the unofficial moratorium on
executions in many states over the lethal injection issue is not the
beginning of the end for the death penalty in states like Alabama.
"To me it appears the opposite is happening," he said,
arguing that states that make use of the death penalty are determined to
cling on to it by whatever means necessary.
Less than a mile from the rather shabby state
government buildings in downtown Montgomery is the office of the Equal
Justice Initiative, which is home to a clutch of lawyers who are
determined to close death row down.
Executive director Bryan Stevenson says the entire
prosecutorial system in his home state is riddled with incompetence and
not-so-latent racism, that perpetuates an historic injustice between
black and white in the entire Deep South.
Sitting on top of that system is the death penalty,
"It's impossible to disconnect that history from this
punishment," says the young black professor, who teaches for part of the
week in New York.
"We've had, in Alabama, 25 cases reversed after
proving intentional racial discrimination in jury selection... We have
19 appellate court judges in Alabama, all of whom are white."
Mr Crenshaw denies all of the charges levelled at the
system he represents, and believes that no miscarriages of justice have
occurred in any of the state's death row cases.
Mr Stephenson says politicians and officials are in
denial - and that there is a larger price to pay.
"Alabama wants to be the place where every European
business comes to invest, and build their companies and factories, but
we have an horrific human rights record."