Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Another death penalty case in the news

Posted by sanityinjection on August 6, 2008

Submitted for your approval: The State of Alabama vs. Thomas Douglas Arthur.

I recommend this case to your attention because it runs counter to many of the criticisms often leveled at capital punishment in the US, concerning how it is applied. For example, we are often told that the death penalty is racist because it is mostly black criminals who end up on death row. Arthur is white.

We are also told that the judicial system, especially in the South, fails to protect the rights of defendants. In this case, Mr. Arthur was tried three times for the murder of Troy Wicker in 1982. The first two convictions were thrown out, not because there was any real doubt of Mr. Arthur’s guilt, but because of legal technicalities. After the third conviction finally stuck, Arthur was scheduled for execution three times, only to receive a stay of execution at the last possible moment each time.

This latest obstruction of justice comes courtesy of one Bobby Gilbert, another convicted murderer, who has sworn that it was he and not Arthur who killed Wicker. Arthur’s lawyers used this confession to win the stay of execution.

Only problem is, Wicker’s murder was a contract killing paid for by his wife Judy (who served 10 years of a life sentence for her crime.) Judy has steadfastly maintained it was Arthur she hired to kill her husband, and that she does not know Gilbert.

So what do we learn from this? You can commit murder and twenty-five years later they still won’t be able to execute you, as long as you can convince some other murderer already serving a life sentence to make up a false confession. Arguably, in this case at least, the Alabama courts have bent over backwards to safeguard Mr. Arthur’s rights. I shudder to think of the amount of taxpayer money that has been spent litigating Mr. Arthur’s endless appeals, not to mention his prison upkeep.

Bottom line: You can argue the case against the death penalty, and I can respect that. But please don’t try to tell me about how inherently unfair the system is to defendants, because there are plenty of other Thomas Arthurs in our prisons who have repeatedly gamed the system and made a mockery of the courts and of capital punishment.

Article here: http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=5487105

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3 Responses to “Another death penalty case in the news”

  1. Dan said

    Maybe they bend over backwards more, because he *is* white.

    And unfairness is only one of the argument to suspend all executions.

    Even if we could gurantee that the system was fair, and slanted to the benefit of the defendant (which, never forget, is intentional), we can always be mistaken and execute the wrong person and you can’t undo that.

  2. sanityinjection said

    A good argument. But neither can you undo twenty years spent in prison, though you can try to provide financial compensation. How do you compensate for missing your kid’s first steps or not being able to attend their wedding? I don’t think you can rule out any type of sentence solely based on the given that there is always a chance that an innocent person may be found guilty. That is why we have an appeals process, albeit one I think is excessive.

  3. Dan said

    If someone is sentenced as a late teen or early 20 year old (a statistically likely age for violent offenders who would be facing the death sentence) and then 20 years later they are determined to be innocent and subsequently released, they at least still have 20+ years of life in which to be productive to society, have fun, and have children.

    How much is *that* worth?

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