USA: 65-year-old faces execution despite DNA tests doubt

Thomas Arthur set for 27 September execution

A man in the state of Alabama in the United States is facing execution in a week’s time despite claims that DNA tests could cast doubt on the safety of his capital conviction.

Thomas Arthur, who is 65 years old and has been on death row for most of the last 25 years, is facing death by lethal injection on 27 September. He was convicted and condemned to death for the 1982 murder of a man called Troy Wicker in north-west Alabama.

Mr Arthur has always protested his innocence and is calling for the state authorities to conduct modern DNA tests on crime scene evidence which he maintains would substantially undermine the case against him.

Despite Arthur having had his conviction overturned on two earlier occasions because of the improper admission of evidence, and despite the fact that no physical evidence links Arthur to the crime scene and that his conviction rests solely on disputed circumstantial evidence and dubious testimony, the Alabama authorities are refusing to allow DNA testing.

Amnesty International has issued an appeal on Arthur’s case and its members are contacting the Alabama authorities requesting that he be allowed the DNA tests.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances but even supporters of the death penalty must accept that where there’s even the slightest chance of a mistake being made then the execution should be halted.

“This would be far from the first time that DNA tests have shown a death row prisoner to be innocent in the United States - if these tests can once again save an innocent man’s life, surely they’re worth carrying out?”

In the past 30 years the US has executed more than 1,000 people (38 of these in Alabama). At the same time, over 100 people have been exonerated from death row, and DNA testing has played a part in several of these cases.

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