ALArthur’s daughter expects this trip to Holman Prison will
Sun Mar 25, 2012 09:44
The final time Arthur’s daughter expects this trip to Holman Prison will be her last By Tom Smith Senior Staff Writer March 25, 2012
Sherrie Stone is preparing to make the same heart-wrenching journey she has made four times before to say goodbye to her father who is scheduled for execution at Holman Prison. She believes this will be the last such trip she makes.
Stone, 50, the oldest of three children of death-row inmate Tommy Arthur, will travel to Atmore on Tuesday in preparation for her father’s execution, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.
A rthur, 69 of Sheffield, was convicted for the 1982 murder-for-hire killing of a Muscle Shoals man, Troy Wicker. Arthur, who was sentenced to death in 1983, has maintained his innocence throughout years of appeals.
This is the fifth time an execution date has been set. The other times, stays were issued, sparing his life a little longer.
And even though a stay of execution was issued Friday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, temporarily halting the execution, Stone doesn’t expect it to be stopped this time.
“I’m sure it will happen this time,” she said from her home in Tampa, Fla. “We don’t expect any kind of legal maneuvering now.
“My plans are still the same. This hasn’t changed anything.”
Jean Ware, who went to school with Arthur at Sheffield High School, agrees with Stone.
She moved to the Midwest more than 35 years ago but has continued to keep in touch with friends and has followed Arthur’s case through the media.
“The other times, when he was supposed to be executed, I figured he would get out of it, but I think they’re going to execute him this time,” Ware said.
Stone has been by her father’s side the other four times when the executions were postponed and had always had a good feeling about his chances. She doesn’t have those feelings this time.
“He’s never been upset, We don’t cry; we talk about good things and try not to dwell on the execution,” she said. “Each time, he has been very calm. It may be for my benefit. He always said, ‘It’s going to be OK.’
“He’ll say, ‘What do you think Sugar Bear?’ I’d say it’s OK because I had a feeling and then they would come in and tell us the execution had been stopped.
“I don’t feel that this time. I feel this time will be it.”
There lingering issues pending with the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but even though Stone isn’t ready to give up, she said she’s not hanging her hopes on those courts.
Last week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s decision that dismissed Arthur’s latest appeal. His attorneys claim Alabama’s decision to use a new sedative called pentobarbital as part of its three-drug execution combination could be cruel and unusual punishment.
State attorneys pointed out there have been other successful executions when the drug was used.
The three-judge panel’s decision said that the judge should have considered whether changing the medication constituted a “significant change to Alabama’s execution protocol.”
Stone said she doesn’t believe that decision will stop the execution.
The U.S. appellant court’s decision Friday placed Arthur’s execution on hold until the court decides to act.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office has filed a petition for another hearing on the decision handed down by the three-member panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Deputy Alabama Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said the state plans to ask the full 12-member 11th Circuit to review the panel’s decision.
“This is not over,” Crenshaw said of Arthur’s execution. “We believe we will get the decision overturned. It’s just a matter of when that decision is made, and will it be made in time to get the stay lifted.”
Stone said the attorney general’s office will try to push for the decision quickly.
“I think they will get the decision in time, the stay will be lifted and (the execution) will happen,” she said.
“If a confession and DNA testing that doesn’t match him won’t work, I don’t expect it to be stopped this time,” Stone said, referring to the confession of Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving life without parole for another murder.
Three days before Arthur was scheduled for execution on July 31, 2008, Gilbert said he had an affair with Judy Wicker, the victim’s wife, and that she asked him to kill her husband. The confession was ruled bogus in Jefferson County Circuit Court in 2010. Arthur and Gilbert were inmates at Holman Prison before Gilbert was transferred to another prison.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam also ruled that DNA testing of evidence taken from Troy Wicker’s home after his death didn’t link Gilbert to the crime.
The testing did not link Arthur to the crime, court officials said.
Stone said she talked with her father a few days ago. She said he hasn’t given up.
“He’s mad and pissed off. He’s upset because they won’t let other DNA be tested,” she said referring to a wig supposedly worn by Wicker’s killer.
“It could prove he either did it or didn’t,” Stone said. “I don’t know if he’s innocent or if he’s guilty, but they say it’s irrelevant to the defense.”
Judy Wicker initially claimed an unknown intruder killed her husband at their Muscle Shoals home. She later said she hired Arthur to kill her husband. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. She testified against Arthur after his first conviction. She was released from prison after serving 10 years of her sentence.
On the day Wicker was killed, authorities said Arthur left the state work-release center in Decatur and drove to Muscle Shoals. He was assigned to work release after a 1977 murder conviction in Marion County.
Stone, who has a younger brother, Doug, and sister, Rhonda, said preparing for the possible executions is very exhausting. She went through three execution dates in 2007 and 2008.
“I was drained. It’s exhausting trying to prepare for this, from the mental and physical side,” she said.
Stone is preparing to make the trip to Atmore on Tuesday and follow the routine once again.
“He will be moved to a death watch cell a couple of days before (the execution date) and everything will be moved out of his cell,” Stone said. “It’s not something new to him.”
Stone said she would spend as much time as possible with her father prior to the execution.
“I’ll get to spend Wednesday and most of the day Thursday with him. Visiting is until 4:15 p.m. Thursday; I doubt I stay that long,” she said. “I’ll say my goodbyes for the fifth time. This time I believe it will be the last time I say goodbye.
“I feel this is the real thing. I really do. If it doesn’t happen, it will truly be a miracle — that’s all that’s left.”
Stone said she’s at peace with the fact that her father may be put to death this time.
“I have an inner peace that I have never had before,” she said. “I have accepted this. I don’t like the way it has happened. I would have preferred to have finally known his guilt or innocence, and I need that.
“He hasn’t given up and he never will. He will go down fighting. But I’m at peace knowing I’ve done all I can.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.
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