WASHINGTON (AP) — Alabama can again try to execute a convicted killer who has been on death row for 30 years and had seven execution dates postponed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The justices turned down an appeal from Tommy Arthur, who investigators said was having an affair with a woman who paid him $10,000 to kill her husband.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer said they would have heard the appeal, which centered on a requirement that condemned inmates challenging their method of execution name a feasible alternate method that is also allowed by state law.
Sotomayor said in an 18-page opinion that Arthur had presented considerable evidence that Alabama’s lethal injection procedures “will result in intolerable and needless agony” and had suggested a firing squad as an alternative.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Arthur’s appeal came after the court issued a last-minute stay in November, blocking Arthur’s execution as he sat in a holding cell outside the state’s lethal injection chamber.
Chief Justice John Roberts said Arthur’s appeal “does not merit the court’s review.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the decision.
“The long wait for justice may be nearing an end for convicted killer Thomas Arthur,” Marshall said in a statement. “For more than 30 years he has fought to delay his execution for the 1982 cold-blooded murder of Troy Wicker.”
Arthur was convicted of killing Wicker as he slept inside his Muscle Shoals home. At the time, Arthur was in a prison work-release program for the slaying of his sister-in-law.
Arthur has maintained his innocence in the Wicker killing. His attorney Suhana Han declined to comment.
The decision in the Arthur case was handed down as the Supreme Court also rejected an attempt by Arkansas inmates to stop their executions over claims that their deaths would be “intolerably painful.”
The nine inmates asked the justices to review an Arkansas Supreme Court decision upholding a law that keeps the source of the lethal injection drugs secret. Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and the difficulty of obtaining execution drugs. A batch of one of Arkansas’ execution drugs expired New Year’s Day and an agency spokesman said Tuesday that it had not acquired additional doses of potassium chloride.
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