[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----KY., ALA., ARK.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 30 17:29:38 CDT 2008

July 30


Death Row Inmate Wants DNA Challenge Save Email Print

DNA from multiple people has been found on evidence in a 1990 double
slaying but it has not been tested against a man on Kentucky's death row
for the killings.

At least 3 people contributed DNA found on a hat and DNA from 2 people was
found on a jacket used as evidence in the case of Thomas Clyde Bowling.
Bowling was convicted of the murders of Eddie and Tina Earley outside
their Lexington dry cleaning story, Early Bird Cleaners.

The DNA evidence hasn't been compared to a sample from the 54-year-old
Bowling because prosecutors have objected to the tests.

Bowling's lawyers are asking Fayette Circuit Judge Kim Bunnell to vacate
the conviction based on the preliminary test results.

The test results were made public in filings in Bowling's case on Monday
and Tuesday.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Inmate claims guilt in 1982 killing

Attorneys attempting to delay Thomas Arthur's execution sent Gov. Bob
Riley and court officials an affidavit Tuesday signed by another inmate
who said he killed Troy Wicker Jr. in 1982, the crime that put Arthur on
death row.

But Attorney General Troy King and the victim's wife both dismissed the
affidavit as untrue.

The inmate's affidavit surfaced Tuesday within hours after the Alabama
Supreme Court refused on a 6-2 vote to delay Arthur's execution, scheduled
for 6 p.m. Thursday. The delay was sought so that DNA testing of evidence
could be conducted.

Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving life without parole in an unrelated
murder, said in his handwritten affidavit, signed Monday, that he was a
17-year-old having a sexual relationship with Wicker's wife when she hired
him to kill her husband for $2,000 because he was abusive.

Prosecutors contend Judy Wicker hired Arthur for the killing in an
insurance scheme. She was given a life sentence for her part in the crime
and paroled after 10 years behind bars.

In his affidavit, Gilbert, now 43, said he first admitted the killing to a
friend only last year and attempted to contact Arthur's lawyers without
immediate success.

In response, Judy Wicker, in a 3-page sworn statement to King's office,
said "none of Gilbert's allegations are true." She said she didn't know
Gilbert and never had a relationship with him.

"I hired and paid money to Thomas Arthur, not Bobby Gilbert, to kill Troy
Wicker," she stated.

King dismissed Gilbert's statement, calling it a "smokescreen" and "simply
another attempt" by Arthur to delay his execution. King said he has
advised Riley not to delay the execution.

Arthur's attorneys, urging Riley to grant a stay, also filed for an
emergency hearing in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Birmingham, where
he was convicted, citing the affidavit as new evidence.

"Because someone else has confessed to committing the crime for which Mr.
Arthur is about to be executed, there is simply no legitimate reason to
deny Mr. Arthur's request for DNA testing or to execute Mr. Arthur before
such testing has been completed," Arthur attorney Suhana S. Han wrote

Arthur has twice come within a day of execution before obtaining court
delays. His attorney is still expected to pursue a U.S. Supreme Court stay
of execution.

Last week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to delay
the execution for DNA testing. His appeal last year challenging lethal
injection as a form of execution was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court
after granting a stay on the eve of his Dec. 6 execution date.

Arthur's execution would be the first in Alabama since the high court, in
April, upheld the use of lethal injection.

Prosecutors point out that every court that has reviewed Arthur's case
concluded that favorable DNA test results will not establish his
innocence. "Every court that has addressed this case has stated that DNA
testing would not shed any further light on Arthur's guilt and that Arthur
was convicted on the basis of overwhelming evidence," said Assistant
Attorney General Clay Crenshaw, who handles death penalty cases for the
state prosecutor.

Riley last year refused to order DNA testing in Arthur's case.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the inmate claim DNA could clear Arthur and test
Gilbert's claims in his affidavit, which includes details from the crime
scene. He describes shooting Wicker with a ".22 sawed-off rifle" that he
later threw into a lagoon and added he was paid by Judy Wicker in a
Huntsville bar.

The New York-based Innocence Project, an international organization that
specializes in DNA exonerations, also has supported Arthur's DNA request.

Arthur was tried 3 times for the Wicker killing, and the first 2
convictions were overturned on technicalities.

His appeal was marked by missed court filing deadlines. Arthur's attorneys
contend he faces execution "without ever having received any state or
federal substantive collateral review of his trial and death sentence."
However, prosecutors say that's a false assertion, saying he delayed his
filings until the last minute when an execution date was near.

Judy Wicker initially told police a burglar had raped her and killed
Wicker, but later recanted, saying she had sex with Arthur and paid him
$10,000 to kill her husband.

Prosecutors alleged that Arthur, a work-release inmate at the time,
fatally shot Wicker while he slept so Judy Wicker could get $90,000 in
life insurance. Arthur's lawyer, in a court filing, described her as an
"admitted perjurer."

(source: Associated Press)


Convicted murderer serving life says he, not Thomas Arthur, killed Troy
Wicker Jr. in 1982

A convicted murderer serving life without parole for stabbing another
inmate to death over a carton of cigarettes claims Alabama is about to
execute an innocent man.

Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving a life sentence at St. Clair
Correctional Facility, claims in documents filed in court Tuesday that it
was he, not Death Row inmate Thomas D. Arthur, who murdered Troy Wicker
Jr. in Muscle Shoals in 1982. Arthur is scheduled to be executed for the
crime at 6 p.m. Thursday.

An attorney for the state said Gilbert lacks credibility, and the
execution should proceed.

In appeals filed to the Jefferson County Circuit Court and to the Alabama
Supreme Court, Arthur's lawyers request a stay of execution, access to
evidence for DNA testing, an emergency hearing and an order granting
Arthur a new trial. Arthur's attorneys also asked Gov. Bob Riley to delay
the execution.

The filings include an affidavit from Gilbert, once known as "Snake," in
which he claims Wicker's wife, Judy, paid him $2,000 to kill her husband.

"I used a .22 sawed-off rifle and shot him in the face," Gilbert said in
the handwritten document. "I was standing less than 20 inches from him."

Gilbert, now 43, claimed he and Judy Wicker were having an affair when he
was 17, that they had sex after the crime and that he then beat her, at
her request. Judy Wicker was found at the crime scene, bloodied and

Judy Wicker told authorities at the scene that a burglar raped her and
killed her husband. She was convicted of the crime, however, and served 10
years in prison. She won early release after she changed her testimony and
claimed she paid Arthur to kill her husband so she could collect $90,000
in life insurance proceeds. Arthur was convicted in 1991 after two earlier
convictions were overturned on technicalities.

Assistant Alabama Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Gilbert simply is
not believable. The state will introduce an affidavit from Judy Wicker
denying his claims, he said.

"We don't think any of this has any credibility," he said. "I think he was
fed information by Arthur's attorneys."

Gilbert was serving a life sentence for a DeKalb County murder when he
stabbed another inmate to death with a homemade knife in 1990 at Donaldson
Correctional Facility. The other inmate, Andrew "Gump" Brown, claimed to
have influence with the guards and promised to arrange to have Gilbert
moved to a new cell in return for a carton of cigarettes. Brown didn't
deliver on the promise, so Gilbert killed him, he said at his own trial.

Suhana Han, an attorney representing Arthur, said she learned of Gilbert's
story from an anonymous tip and interviewed him on Monday. Crenshaw's
claims that defense attorneys coached him aren't founded, she said.

"That's a desperate attempt suggesting that the AG is afraid of the
truth," she said. "There is a way to confirm whether Gilbert is telling
the truth: DNA testing."

Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that
advocates DNA testing for the condemned, said he thinks Gilbert's
statement should be enough for the defense to win a stay and gain access
to evidence.

Defense attorneys want testing done on an afro wig that Gilbert claims to
have worn during the murder, and that Judy Wicker testified Arthur wore.
They also want testing done on a rape kit that could indicate whether
Arthur, Gilbert or another man had sex with Judy Wicker after the murder.

Earlier Tuesday - before the Gilbert affidavit was filed - the Alabama
Supreme Court rejected by a 6-2 vote a defense request for a stay and
access to the evidence. State and federal courts have repeatedly ruled
that DNA testing of the evidence could not exonerate Arthur, and that he
missed deadlines in filing appeals requesting testing.

(source: Birmingham News)


State can't find rape kit in Thomas Arthur case

An attorney for the state of Alabama in a filing today says he has been
unable to locate a rape kit tied to the case of death row inmate Thomas D.

Arthur is scheduled to be executed tomorrow night. His attorneys want to
conduct DNA tests on the rape kit collected at the scene of the murder of
Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals in 1982. The victim's wife claimed to
have been raped by the killer.

The state of Alabama asked the court to reject an appeal from Arthur.
Attorneys for the state argued in Jefferson County Circuit Court that
claims by another man that he, and not Arthur, killed Wicker are not

(source: Birmingham News)


Arthur denied execution delay----Other inmate confesses to killing; widow
disputes it

An Alabama inmate serving life in prison has allegedly confessed to a
murder for which another man is scheduled to die.

Thomas Douglas Arthur is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday,
after the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a stay of execution.

Arthur's attorney, Suhana Han, filed another motion with the court and
Gov. Bob Riley containing the alleged confession.

Han is seeking a stay of execution based on the statement by 43-year-old
St. Clair prison inmate Bobby Ray Gilbert, in which he says he killed Troy
Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals in 1982, when he was 17.

"I used a .22 sawed-off rifle and shot him in the face," Gilberts alleged
confession says. In his affidavit, Gilbert said he first admitted the
killing to a friend only last year and attempted to contact Arthur's
lawyers without immediate success.

Arthur asked Riley to stay his execution to give him time for DNA testing.
Riley spokeswoman Tara Hutchison had no immediate comment Tuesday.

Arthur's attorneys also filed for an emergency hearing in Jefferson County
Circuit Court in Birmingham, where he was convicted, citing the affidavit
as new evidence.

Wicker's widow, Judy Wicker, who spent 10 years in prison for her
husband's death, testified she had sex with Arthur and then hired him for
$10,000 to kill her husband. Judy Wicker said the confession was false and
maintains that Arthur is guilty.

Attorney General Troy King released a 3-page affidavit by Judy Wicker
stating she doesnt know Gilbert and that Arthur killed her husband for

"I was at home when Troy Wicker was shot to death, and saw the individual
who shot him," her affidavit said. "That individual was Thomas Arthur, not
Bobby Gilbert."

In 2 trials, Judy Wicker said a black male assaulted and raped her and
killed her husband. In her 3rd trial, she said she hired Arthur to kill
her husband. Judy Wicker could not be reached for comment. King spokesman
Chris Bence declined to release contact information for her, saying he was
prohibited from releasing such information from victim's files.

Judy Wicker also said in her statement that Arthur's daughter, Sherrie
Stone, "had visited me and pressured me to falsely" accuse another man of
"committing Troy's murder," in exchange for money from any lawsuit Arthur
would file for wrongful conviction.

Stone disputes that characterization, saying Judy Wicker either lied at
the 1st 2 trials or lied at the 3rd. "How can we believe anything she
said?" she said Tuesday. "What I told her was, if she would just tell the
truth, if it's money she wanted we'd try to help her. She said it would
jeopardize her freedom. She got out of prison on a deal."

Arthur was tried 3 times for the Wicker killing, and the first two
convictions were overturned on technicalities. He confessed to killing
Wicker but later recanted, saying he confessed to get a quicker appeal.
Through his attorney, he maintains his innocence.

Han said that, with Gilbert's confession, DNA testing of crime scene
material is imperative.

"Whether or not you believe the sworn affidavit provided by Bobby Gilbert,
the pressing question right now is whether the state has done everything
it can to ensure the guilty person is being put to death," she said. "And
without DNA testing, the answer is no."

Han said there is DNA evidence from a rape kit taken from Judy Wicker.

"There is a way that we can confirm whether Gilbert is telling the truth
when he confessed to murdering Troy Wicker, and that is DNA testing," Han
said. I dont have an opinion of him beyond this is somebody who has
confessed to a crime."

In the statement, Gilbert indicated where he disposed of the sawed-off .22
rifle. His statement said he met Judy Wicker in a bar and had sex with her
at least a dozen times over a month or so, and she then hired him to kill
her husband.

King said Arthur is making a full-court press to defeat justice and deny
Troy Wickers family."

"I don't see any reason to believe this," King said. "What I know is,
there is a signed affidavit that she's never met this guy, there never was
any kind of relationship with him, she paid Tommy Arthur to kill her
husband and Tommy Arthur's daughter has offered money to recant the
testimony and change her testimony."

Arthur's scheduled execution would be the 1st in Alabama since the U.S.
Supreme Court upheld lethal injection as a method of execution.

(source: Tuscaloosa News)


Dueling affidavits on eve of Arthur execution

On the eve of Thomas Arthur's scheduled execution, attorneys were in court
with dueling affidavits  one from a convicted murderer who claims hes
guilty of the killing that sent Arthur to death row, and another disputing
that claim.

The legal crossfire came as the 66-year-old Arthur faces lethal injection
at 6 p.m. (CDT) Thursday at Holman Prison. Convicted of the Feb. 1, 1982,
killing of Troy Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals, Arthur has twice come within
a day of execution before winning court delays.

Arthurs attorneys, who claim DNA testing could exonerate Arthur, sought a
stay of execution from Gov. Bob Riley and the courts by using an affidavit
from convicted murderer Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving a life sentence
at St. Clair Correctional Facility.

In a sworn statement Monday to Arthurs attorneys, Gilbert claimed he
killed Wicker when he was 17. But Wickers widow, Judy Wicker, who served a
prison sentence for hiring the killer, said in an affidavit to the
attorney generals investigators that she never met Gilbert. She once again
accused Arthur of the killing.

"None of Gilbert's allegations are true. I do not know anyone named Bobby
Gilbert," she said in a sworn statement Monday. "I hired and paid money to
Thomas Arthur, not Bobby Gilbert, to kill Troy Wicker."

Attorney General Troy King also dismissed Gilbert's statement and
recommended to Riley that the execution not be delayed.

Arthur's attorneys on Tuesday turned to the Jefferson County Circuit
Court, offering the Gilbert affidavit as new evidence in a bid for a
hearing. The court did not immediately rule. Kings office urged the court
to dismiss it.

"The presentation of Gilberts affidavit is yet another example of Arthur
presenting information that is fabricated and incredible," Assistant
Attorney General Jasper Roberts told the court in a filing Wednesday.

Challenging Gilbert's credibility, Roberts noted that of the 23 years
Gilbert has been in prison, he has spent about 20 in administrative
segregation for violating prison rules and regulations. He said Gilbert
has convictions for 2 murders, an escape, an assault on another inmate
with the intent to commit murder.

In trial testimony, Judy Wicker said she paid Arthur $10,000 to kill her
husband in an insurance scheme. She served 10 years before her early
release from a life sentence.

The Alabama Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier
denied Arthur's bid to delay the execution so that DNA testing of evidence
could be done. A final request for a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court is
expected by Thursday.

Prosecutors point out that every court that has reviewed Arthur's case
concluded that favorable DNA test results will not establish his
innocence. Arthur was tried 3 times for the Wicker killing, and the first
2 convictions were overturned on technicalities.

The New York-based Innocence Project, an international organization that
specializes in DNA exonerations, also has supported Arthur's DNA request.

Arthur's execution would be the 1st in Alabama since the high court, in
April, upheld the use of lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)


Grant the delay

Thomas Arthur has been on death row 25 years for the murder of Troy
Wicker. Twice before, he came within a day of being executed. Thursday, he
is scheduled, once again, to die for this crime he claims he didn't

Once again, the execution must be stopped.

Another Alabama inmate now claims he killed Wicker. Bobby Ray Gilbert
claims he committed the crime as a favor to Wicker's wife, Judy. He claims
he had been having an affair with Mrs. Wicker, and that she later paid him

Gilbert's sworn statement was filed in court Tuesday in a petition that
asks for DNA testing to verify the inmate's story and asks to postpone
Arthur's execution until Gilbert's confession can be investigated.

Without doubt, Gilbert's claims must be met with a degree of skepticism.
It wouldn't be the first time a confession like this turned out to be a

On the other hand, what Gilbert is saying can't simply be disregarded -
not when there's a risk of executing the wrong man for the crime.

The case already contains enough odd twists to raise questions about
Arthur's guilt. Mrs. Wicker initially told police a man broke into her
home, raped her and killed her husband. At the crime scene, she appeared
to have been beaten, and a rape kit was collected. Jurors didn't believe
her story and convicted both her and Arthur - a work-release inmate with
whom she was having an affair - of the killing.

Mrs. Wicker didn't change her story until prosecutors offered her a chance
to get an early release from prison. At a subsequent trial for Arthur, she
implicated him. Arthur was sentenced to death; Mrs. Wicker went free. The
prosecutor in Arthur's last trial earlier had been Mrs. Wicker's lawyer.

All along, Arthur has maintained his innocence, and since DNA testing
became available, he has insisted it could be used to clear him. The
attorney general's office and governor's office have refused to go along
with DNA testing; among other excuses, they claimed the tests wouldn't
prove anything either way.

With Gilbert's statement, that's just no longer true. He claims that after
shooting Troy Wicker, he had sex with Judy Wicker. If so, DNA testing of
semen collected from Mrs. Wicker could at the very least show whether
Gilbert is telling the truth about that.

Other facts in Gilbert's statement - names, places, etc. - also can be
checked out to either bolster the veracity of his claims or to debunk

At least some of the statements from Gilbert mesh with some of the known
facts in the case. Even so, that doesn't mean Gilbert is telling the
truth. While he claims he doesn't know Arthur, Gilbert spent time in
Holman Correctional Facility, where death row is located. He could have
learned about the case there or even from newspapers.

But what if Gilbert is telling the truth? Gilbert said he began telling
people last year that he killed Wicker, and even told prison officers the
state shouldn't execute Arthur for the crime and that he needed to speak
with Arthur's lawyers. He said he came forward only after the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that people couldn't be executed for crimes they committed as
juveniles. Gilbert was 17 when Wicker was killed.

There's no way at this point to know whether Gilbert is telling the truth.
But the state of Alabama can't assume he is lying and take the chance of
executing an innocent man. Arthur's execution must not go forward.

(source: The Birmingham News)


Gwathney testifies in capital murder trial----Defendant tells court he
doesn't 'remember'

Taking the stand in his defense Monday, Gordon Randall Gwathney testified
that he does not remember what happened the night three of his in-laws
were murdered.

Gwathney, 47, is accused of killing his mother-in-law Sylvia Reeves, 51,
along with her parents, James Oliver Mitchell, 81, and his wife Evelyn
Mitchell, 79, at their residence on Highway 261, just inside Lee Co., in
February 2007. He is also accused of the attempted murder of his
brother-in-law Travis Reeves and former St. Francis County Deputy Tracy

The state is seeking the death penalty.

Gwathney was the last witness to testify on Monday, the second full day of
testimony in his capital murder trial at the Lee County Courthouse.

The state rested its case Monday morning, after calling several witnesses
on Friday, including Gwathneys estranged wife Lisa Reeves, Travis Reeves
and expert witnesses.

Gwathney gave jurors an overview of the time he spent in the U.S. Air
Force and Army, saying he had served in Somalia and Haiti. He said his
primary job with the military was to help escort food envoys. He explained
in detail how the military unit had come under fire at times and one
instance in which he witnessed a young boy lose his legs after stepping on
a land mine.

Gwathney said he met Lisa Reeves in 1997, and the couple married in
February 2000. "I loved her and still love her today," he said.

According to testimony, Gwathney said he had been experiencing financial
problems and had difficulty finding work. In addition, he said he had
problems sleeping, which he believed was made worse because of a pinched
nerve in his neck.

Because of his medical condition, Gwathney said he visited the Veterans
Administration to inquire about job placement or training, and while he
was there, found a pamphlet about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
and compared the symptoms he read about to what he said he had been

"I didn't make a firm appointment to go back," said Gwathney. "After the
incident that happened, I never had a chance to go back."

According to Gwathney, he had been given four prescriptions by doctors at
the VA, and after a couple of days of taking those, began feeling
"apprehensive, anxious and had difficulty focusing."

The defendant continued to refer to the day of the murders as the

On the day of the murders, Gwathney said he had started a new job selling
adjustable beds, and in between sales calls, returned home where he found
a message on his answering machine about a bill.

He testified that he spoke with Lisa Reeves about the message and she
reportedly told him that she thought she had made the payment, but would
take care of it.

Gwathney said he returned to his home in Marianna about 9 p.m. on Feb. 13,
took his medication and went to bed.

The defendant testified that he remembers arguing with Lisa Reeves, but
everything else is "very vague."

When asked if he now knew that he was accused of killing 3 people that
night, he replied, "From what I have heard, that is apparently what
happened. I am very, very sorry, and just dont understand. I love those
people, and I am devastated. I don't think I will ever be able to look
them in the eye."

Gwathney told his defense attorney Gerald Coleman that he didn't
understand why he was in Laredo, Texas, and that he had never been there

Gwathney was arrested at a McDonald's in Laredo, just miles from the
Mexico border, the evening following the murders.

"I remember realizing I didnt have socks or underwear...just jeans and a
pullover sweater," he said. "I also didnt have any clothing or personal
hygiene items."

He said he went to a Wal-Mart to try and purchase these items, but his ATM
card was denied. He then drove to a Target and later to the McDonald's
where he was arrested. "I dont know what happenedI didn't mean to hurt
anyone," he testified.

Under cross-examination, Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long asked Gwathney
about his military training, particularly about fire and maneuver

Gwathney answered that that time of training is a "blocking force that
fires on an objective and teaches a soldier how to use a weapon" so the
opponent is unable to return fire.

"When did you experience symptoms where you were not able to control your
actions?" Long asked.

"The only time was the event," Gwathney answered.

"You have never had an episode that kept you from doing what the law
required you to do?" Long asked.

Gwathney answered "Yes," but did not elaborate.

Long asked if Gwathney knew about PTSD before his visit to the VA.

He responded that he did know a little about it, but after reading a
pamphlet on the disorder, a nurse asked him some quesions and he completed
a questionnaire.

Long also questioned Gwathney about the 2 weapons, a .40 caliber pistol
and AK-47, which were believed to have been used in the murders.

Gwathney said he owned several guns and had a gun safe in his home, along
with ammunition that he said he frequently used for target practice.
Gwathney was still armed with the pistol and AK-47 when he was captured in
Laredo. According to testimony, Gwathney had a .40 caliber clip on him,
and also had 29 rounds in the AK-47 with 1 bullet in the chamber.

To each question Long asked about the night of the murders, Gwathney
responded that he didn't remember.

"Cell phone? Disposing of it? Deputy Sheriff? I guess any question I ask
you about the incident will be 'I don't remember,'" Long said.

"Yes," Gwathney replied.

Coleman, again questioning the defendant, said, "That is really because
you don't remember. You are telling the truth?"

"Yes," Gwathney again replied.

Gwathneys testimony ended the first day of testimony for the defense.

Witnesses for the state on Friday offered jurors numerous details
surrounding the murders.

Victoria Lane with the Arkansas State Crime Lab identified blood on a
shirt Gwathney was wearing when he was arrested as that of Sylvia Reeves.

State Medical Examiner Adam Craig testified that Sylvia Reeves was shot
once, through the shoulder and into the neck. He said James Mitchell and
Evelyn Mitchell were each shot once in the head.

Arkansas State Police Special Agent Mike Middleton showed the jury
pictures of Gwathney withdrawing money from an ATM in Palestine, along
with pictures of the weapons and the shirt Gwathney was wearing.

Early testimony on Monday was from psychologists who examined Gwathney
after his arrest.

(source: Times-Herald)

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