US Supreme Court Issues Temporary Stay in Alabama Execution

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Tommy Arthur is shown in an undated booking photo. (Credit: CNN)

The US Supreme Court on Thursday night issued a temporary stay in the execution of Alabama inmate Tommy Arthur.

Arthur, nicknamed the “Houdini of Death Row” because the state had scheduled seven other execution dates, was set to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET) Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility at Atmore.

The court issued the temporary stay, signed by Justice Clarence Thomas, not long before the time of execution.

The order didn’t say specifically why it was issued. Arthur’s lawyers had also filed motions arguing that Alabama’s method of execution was cruel and unusual and that the lawyers should have access to a cellphone while witnessing the execution.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson Bob Horton told CNN, “The Alabama Department of Corrections will wait on the US Supreme Court to render a decision on Arthur’s appeal. The state has until midnight to carry out the execution.”

Earlier, stay requests had been rejected by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and Gov. Kay Ivey. Arthur’s lawyers had asked Ivey to delay the execution so DNA evidence could be examined from the killing for which he was sentenced to die.

Two executions were stopped when Arthur’s convictions were overturned. Arthur has appealed other execution orders by arguing the combination of lethal injection drugs would cause him physical pain because of a heart condition.

Arthur, now 75, was convicted of killing Troy Wicker Jr. of Muscle Shoals by shooting him in the right eye on February 1, 1982, according to court documents.

Arthur was a work release prisoner at that time. He had been convicted of killing his sister-in-law in 1977, also by shooting her in the right eye, said court documents.

Arthur had entered a romantic relationship with Judy Wicker, Troy Wicker’s wife, the Birmingham News reported. She initially told authorities a burglar wearing a wig raped her and killed her husband, the Birmingham News reported, but later testified she paid Arthur $10,000 in life insurance money to kill her husband.

Arthur, who had pleaded innocent, was first convicted in 1983, but that verdict was overturned on appeal, the News reported. A 1987 conviction was overturned and he was convicted again in 1991.