Alabama tried to execute aging Death Row inmate Tommy Arthur seven times between 2001 and 2016. He evaded execution each previous time. Yesterday evening he was, once again, scheduled for death by execution. He declined a final meal. He didn’t believe in it, saying he never had the appetite. He claimed he wasn’t hungry when he was previously scheduled for execution.

Director of the Victims of Crime and Leniency, Janette Grantham called him a Houdini, always escaping the sentence that loomed for 16 years.

Stay of execution lifted and death row 'Houdini' executed

Last night his appeals were exhausted. The U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay on his execution at 10:45 p.m., an hour before the death warrant would have been void. Arthur, at 75-years-old, was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m. at Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility. According to media witnesses, he gave his daughter, Sherrie Stone, a thumbs up signal and mouthed the words “I love you.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court, dissented. She said the state’s use of midazolam, a sedative, as the first drug in the Lethal Injection protocol might be unconstitutional, since it doesn’t protect the condemned inmate from pain caused by other chemicals used to stop his heart and his lungs.

Arthur told a news station last week that he was confident that his attorneys would find a way to keep him alive. There was no escaping execution this time. Arthur lived 34 years on death row, with 25 of those years in a 5-foot by 8-foot cell. He was out for a brief time every other day to shower.

Murder-for-hire led to death row

The death sentence was imposed following his conviction for the 1982 contract killing of riverboat engineer Troy Wicker. He was accused of murdering Wicker for his wife, Judy Wicker – who had an affair with Arthur while he was on work release and out of prison after he served five years (of a life sentence) for murdering the sister of his common-law wife in 1977.

He said that murder was an alcohol-induced accident. He pleaded guilty to (the unpremeditated) killing of Eloise West.

For killing Wicker for-hire, prosecutors said Arthur was paid $10,000.

After Arthur was convicted for killing Wicker in 1983, he escaped jail in 1986 after the conviction was overturned and he was waiting for his retrial. He shot a guard in the neck. For over a month, he was a fugitive.

Following a second conviction for Wicker’s murder, that conviction was also overturned. The third conviction was the one that refused to go away; the conviction stuck. Arthur claimed to have made a strategic decision in asking jurors to sentence him to death. He said it was done to offer more appellate review.

Though his lawyers challenged the humaneness of lethal injection with midazolam to carry out the execution, in the end, neither challenges nor appeals spared Arthur’s life.

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