Alabama Inmate Arthur Is Executed for a 1982 Murder

Tommy Arthur, 75, was put to death on his eighth scheduled date. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented over the use of a controversial sedative in the lethal injection process.

On his eighth scheduled execution date, Alabama inmate Tommy Arthur was put to death by lethal injection for a 1982 murder for hire, reports Al.com in Birmingham. He did not admit to or mention anything about the crime that landed him on death row, the shooting death of Troy Wicker Jr.  The execution began about 11:50 p.m., ten minutes before the death warrant was to expire, said Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn. The execution was to have begun at 6 p.m. but was delayed by appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The execution contrasted with the Dec. 8 case of Ronald Bert Smith, who for 13 minutes heaved and gasped for breath and two consciousness tests were performed before the lethal drugs were administered. Smith’s attorneys called it “botched.” Gov. Kay Ivey said, “After much prayer and careful and deliberate consideration, I thought it best to allow the decision of a jury of Tommy Arthur’s peers to stand.” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from a decision to allow the execution, writing, “Alabama plans to execute Thomas Arthur tonight using a three-drug lethal-injection protocol that uses midazolam as a sedative. I continue to doubt whether midazolam is capable of rendering prisoners insensate to the excruciating pain of lethal injection.” Arthur, 75, was the third-longest serving inmate among the 184 on Alabama’s death row.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Alabama Execution Set Today For 1982 Murder

Tommy Arthur, now 75, has managed to delay his execution for decades. While he maintains his innocence, a lawyer for the state says he has “successfully manipulated the system.”

Tommy Arthur has his eighth execution date today in Alabama in a case that has spanned the tenures of eight governors, starting with George Wallace. New York Times reports that case is “a symbol of the troubles of the capital punishment system in the United States.” Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, said that, “People who simply want the execution are unhappy because of the passage of time. People who oppose the death penalty are unhappy because they don’t want Tommy Arthur executed. People who want fairness are unhappy because, despite the length of time this case has been in the courts, the process has never been fair.”

In Alabama, 58 people have been put to death since Arthur was sentenced for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker. If Arthur, 75, is executed today, his death will come one week after the legislature approved to a plan to reduce the length of appeals in capital cases. Arthur confessed to one murder but was given a death sentence for a second he insists he did not commit. Authorities contend that Wicker’s wife, Judy, hired Arthur, her lover, to carry out the killing so she could collect an insurance payout. Ms. Wicker was found guilty and spent a decade in prison. Arthur has maintained his innocence and sought new forensic testing of evidence. He argued his sentence was unconstitutional and that his claims of ineffective counsel were never fully considered. He raised  challenged to the lethal injection drug midazolam. Clay Crenshaw of the Alabama Attorney General’s office said, “I think he and his lawyers have successfully manipulated the system.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Georgia Executes Man For Killing Doc Who Delivered Him

In its first execution this year, Georgia today put to death J.W. “Boy” Ledford Jr. for the 1992 murder of his 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston. Ledford had requested death by firing squad, but he was given a lethal injection,

In its first execution this year, Georgia today put to death J.W. “Boy” Ledford Jr. for the 1992 murder of his 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston, the physician who delivered Ledford when he was born, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution after midnight for Ledford, 45, clearing the way for the lethal injection. While Georgia executions are usually set for 7 p.m., the state does not proceed until all courts have weighed in, which usually puts the actual time of death well into the night and sometimes into the early morning hours of the next day.

On Monday the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Ledford’s clemency petition despite pleas from his mother, his six sisters and his son. Also on Monday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Ledford’s lethal injection challenge, in which he requested death by firing squad on the grounds that a lethal injection would subject him to too much pain. Ledford argued in legal motions that he was at risk of an excruciating death because the lethal injection drug would react badly to medication he has taken for a decade for chronic pain. He said death by firing squad would be more humane.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Report: Death Row Population Declined Slightly to 2,881 in ’15

It was the 15th consecutive year in which the number of condemned inmates in state and federal prisons had declined, according to a new statistical brief by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A new statistical brief reports that 33 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons held a total of 2,881 inmates under sentence of death at the end of 2015, 61 fewer than at year’s end in 2014. It was the 15th consecutive year in which the number of condemned inmates decreased, according to “Capital Punishment, 2014-2015,” by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Fourteen states and the federal system received a total of 49 inmates under sentence of death in 2015.

Other key findings from 2015 year-end data: Six states executed 28 inmates. Twenty-one states removed 82 inmates from under sentence of death by means other than execution. Overall, 20 states held fewer inmates under sentence of death than a year earlier, five states and the federal system held more inmates, and nine held the same number. The largest decline in inmates under a death sentence occurred in Texas (down 17), followed by Georgia (down eight), and Missouri (down seven). The governor of Maryland commuted the sentences of the four remaining inmates under sentence of death in the state.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Condemned Man Lurches as AR Wraps Up Execution Spree

Kenneth Williams was the fourth killer executed in eight days in Arkansas. Witnesses say he lurched violently against his restraints. A spokesman for the governor called it “an involuntary muscular reaction.” Williams’ attorneys called it “horrifying.”

Arkansas wrapped up an accelerated executions schedule with a lethal injection that left the condemned inmate lurching and convulsing before he died, prompting calls for investigations of the state’s efforts to put multiple inmates to death on a compressed timeline, says the Associated Press. Kenneth Williams on Thursday became the fourth convicted killer executed in Arkansas in eight days as the state sought to carry out as many lethal injections as possible before one of its drugs expires Sunday. An AP reporter who witnessed the execution said that about three minutes in, Williams’ body jerked 15 times in quick succession — lurching violently against the leather restraint across his chest — then the rate slowed for a final five movements.

A spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the movements “an involuntary muscular reaction” that he said was a widely known effect of the surgical sedative midazolam. Williams’ attorneys called witness accounts “horrifying” and demanding an investigation into the “problematic execution.” Williams was sentenced to death for killing a former deputy warden, Cecil Boren, after he escaped from prison in 1999. He had been serving a life term for the death of a college cheerleader. Williams read a statement before the execution, apologizing to the families he “senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones.” He also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible but language-like speech used in some religions. His prayer faded off as the midazolam took effect. He said, “The words that I speak will forever be, will forever …” before he fell silent.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Study Faults Use of Solitary Confinement on TX Death Row

A report by University of Texas law students concludes that the treatment of death row inmates falls “woefully behind international standards for confinement.” Some spend decades living amid cruel conditions that include poor health care, no physical contact with loved ones, and little exposure to natural light and physical activity.

A study conducted by University of Texas law students concludes that death row inmates in the state are living in cruel conditions that include poor health care, no physical contact with loved ones, and little exposure to natural light and physical activity, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The UT Law School’s Human Rights Clinic conducted questionnaire interviews with former death row inmates who recalled confinement to an 8-by-12-foot cell for all but an hour or two a day. With conviction appeals crawling through the legal system, many inmates are subjected to this treatment for decades.

The clinic’s 48-page report, “Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas’ Death Rows,” concludes that solitary confinement — which state law requires for capital murder convictions — is unnecessary except in extreme cases when the inmate poses a threat to general population inmates. Even then, the report suggests, solitary confinement should be capped at 15 days and be abolished altogether for inmates who suffer from mental or intellectual disabilities. Texas’ practices “fall woefully behind international standards for confinement,” the report says. A spokesman responded that the state corrections agency “will continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

OK Panel Urges Dozens of Fixes in Death Penalty System

Bipartisan private commission says the state should not execute anyone until “significant reforms” are made. If you’re going to have the death penalty, it ought to be done right,” said former Gov. Brad Henry.

Bipartisan private commission says the state should not execute anyone until "significant reforms" are made. If you're going to have the death penalty, it ought to be done right," said former Gov. Brad Henry . . .

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from https://thecrimereport.org

Arkansas Executes Two Death Row Inmates

Jack Jones and Marcel Williams received lethal injections on the same gurney last night. Another execution is scheduled for Thursday. Four others have been blocked by courts.

After going nearly 12 years without executing an inmate, Arkansas now has executed three in a few days, including two last night, the Associated Press reports. Jack Jones and Marcel Williams received lethal injections on the same gurney about three hours apart. It was the first double execution in the U.S. since 2000. Jones, 52, was executed on schedule, shortly after 7 p.m. Attorneys for Williams, 46, convinced a federal judge to delay his execution briefly over concerns about how the earlier one was carried out. They claimed Jones “was moving his lips and gulping for air,” an account the state’s attorney general denied. The judge lifted her stay an hour later and Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m.

Williams’ attorneys said officials spent 45 minutes trying to place an IV line in Jones’ neck before placing it elsewhere. The lawyers said Williams, who weighed 400 pounds, could have faced a “torturous” death because of his weight. Gov. Asa Hutchinson had scheduled four double executions over an 11-day period. The state said the executions needed to be carried out before its supply of one lethal injection drug expires on April 30. Arkansas put to death one other inmate last week and has a final one scheduled for Thursday. Four others have been blocked.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Six ‘Respectable’ Citizens Must Watch AR Executions

Arkansas has struggled to find enough witnesses. Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center says that, “If the role of the witness has changed, it’s because the importance of that role has grown,”says Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Volunteering to watch someone die by execution is one of the hardest tasks asked of Americans. After states experienced a series of botched executions and troubles procuring drugs used in lethal injections, Arkansas has struggled to find enough witnesses. Its call for volunteers has come as state lawmakers have made the process less accessible, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The focus on the death chamber curtain underscores “an extraordinary period for the death penalty in the United States,” says Amherst College political scientist Austin Sarat. Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center says that, “If the role of the witness has changed, it’s because the importance of that role has grown.”

Until 1936, U.S. executions public events. The hanging of Rainey Bethea in Owensboro, Ky., that year, caused a public uproar and set in motion a reform effort to preserve the dignity of condemned prisoners. Smaller groups of invited witnesses have remained integral to document the process. Arkansas requires six “respectable” citizens to watch an execution. Among them are often local pastors, sheriffs, newspaper reporters, crime buffs, and families of the slain. “The role of the witness is a complicated and contradictory one,” says Sarat, author of the book, “Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty.” An execution “is dramatic and traumatic for the individual witness, but it’s really just a cog in the bureaucratic machinery. Yes, [bearing witness] has an important theological connotation, but they are also being invited to see something which is required to be seen.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Judge Won’t Halt Two Arkansas Executions

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker denied requests to stop the executions of Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, who argued that their poor health could make lethal injections especially painful.

A federal judge will not block the executions of two men on Monday, rejecting their claims that poor health could make the lethal injections especially painful, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker denied requests to stop the executions for Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both of which are scheduled for Monday night. Williams argues that his obesity and diabetes could make the lethal injections too painful. Jones argues that his diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions could cause him to suffer an “extended and painful death.”

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before the end of April, when its supply of one lethal injection drug expires. The first three executions were canceled because of court decisions. Legal rulings have put at least one other in doubt. Ledell Lee was executed Thursday in the state’s first execution since 2005.

from https://thecrimereport.org