Alabama inmate asks US Supreme Court for stay

Convicted murderer Tommy Arthur - called the "Houdini" of death row by some after having seven prior execution dates postponed - was scheduled to be put to death Thursday evening in Alabama, as his attorneys filed a flurry of last minute appeals.

The execution was to have begun at 6 p.m. but was delayed by appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arthur, now 75, was convicted in the 1982 murder-for-hire of Troy Wicker. "I've got hope in my legal team", Arthur said in the interview.

"Neither a fingerprint nor a weapon, nor any other physical evidence connects Thomas Arthur to the murder of Troy Wicker", said Suhana Han, Arthur's lead lawyer.

Arthur's lawyers argued they should have access to a telephone to access the courts if the execution went awry.

Arthur has successfully fought off seven other attempts to execute him.

Arthur's attorneys claim that the Department of Corrections chose the drug, but that decision should have been made by lawmakers.

Tommy Arthur has gained another victory in court.

Among those executions cited in their current appeal is the December 8 execution of Alabama Death Row inmate Ronald Bert Smith, Smith heaved and appeared to be gasping for breath for about 13 minutes after being injected with midazolam.

Attorneys for Arthur say the court should intervene to consider whether they should have access to a telephone in the execution suite.

Stone said she had a feeling maybe this was "it". Most recently, he has challenged the drug protocol to be used in his execution, claiming it threatens to violate his rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The first time he was scheduled to die, Tommy Arthur invited his family to death row to say goodbye. Wicker's wife initially blamed an intruder, but later testified she promised Arthur $10,000 to kill her husband.

After going through three separate trials for Wicker's murder, Arthur has pursued dozens of appeals in state and federal courts.

Arthur's legal team has challenged the state of Alabama's lethal injection procedures, including the use of midazolam as a sedative, which many inmates and advocates argue has been ineffective. Arthur's daughter is also expected to witness it.

At the time of the Wicker murder, Arthur was serving at a Decatur work release center for a conviction in the 1977 murder of his sister-in-law, Eloise West, in Marion County. His defense has asked for modern DNA testing on the wig the killer wore, arguing the prosecution's case would "fall apart" if it shows someone else's DNA. In a Wednesday filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, his attorneys said the last inmate executed in Alabama was "awake" because he coughed for the first 13 minutes of his execution and moved slightly after two consciousness tests. A second conviction followed and also was overturned, but a third conviction stuck. Stone said Friday, "Now I will never know the truth".

On Jan. 27, 1986, while awaiting retrial, Arthur escaped from the Colbert County jail by shooting a jailer in the neck with a.25 caliber pistol and forcing another jailer to open his cell. Arthur put on an "afro wig" and used "dark face makeup" to disguise himself as a black man and enter the Wickers' house, records showed.

He was convicted in 1983 but the conviction was overturned.

Tommy Arthur has spent the past 34 years on death row. A death sentence, he said, would allow him more time and resources to devote to his appeal.

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