State loses evidence for DNA testing

Alabama death row inmate’s fate hangs in the balance
Equal Justice Initiative

The State of Alabama has revealed that it lost DNA evidence that could exonerate death row inmate Tommy Arthur. Convicted for the 1982 murder-for-hire of Troy Wicker, Mr. Arthur has for years asked the state to test DNA evidence he says would prove his innocence. The state has refused to conduct the tests.

This week, just days before Mr. Arthur’s execution date, Bobby Ray Gilbert, a convicted killer serving life without parole, signed a sworn statement in which he confessed to the crime. After Mr. Arthur’s lawyers filed the confession in court, the Alabama Supreme Court stayed his execution, which was scheduled to take place today.

Judy Wicker, an admitted conspirator in the murder of her husband, said in an affidavit that Mr. Arthur, not Gilbert, committed the crime. She also accused Mr. Arthur’s daughter of trying to bribe her to clear her father. Mr. Arthur’s daughter, Sherrie Stone, denied the allegation.

DNA testing of the evidence might have exonerated Mr. Arthur or eliminated the need for a stay of execution. The State’s claim that it has now lost the DNA evidence raises more troubling questions about the propriety of executing Mr. Arthur.

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