Written by Ian Millhiser
Andrew Cohen chronicles the many uncertainties in Alabama’s case against Thomas Arthur, who was convicted of murder three decades ago and is scheduled to be executed next month. They include a key witness who recanted and then unrecanted her testimony, another man who admitted to committing the murder, and a wig containing DNA evidence that likely belongs to the real killer.
Alabama, however, refuses to allow this evidence to be tested even though it would cost the state nothing to do so:
Late last month, I profiled the wobbly capital conviction against Troy Noling in Ohio and there are remarkable similarities between it and the Arthur case. Both involve white defendants. Both include contentions of innocence and allegations of bad lawyering at trial. Both include a lack of physical evidence linking the defendants to the crime. Both include crucial witness testimony that borders the farcical. And both include state officials reluctant to permit sophisticated DNA testing that might definitively answer questions about whether the defendants committed the murders they will die for.
Arthur’s attorneys are even willing to pay for that testing, the few thousand bucks it would be, and the testing could be completed by the execution date. It is here where prosecutors and judges lose me when they prioritize “finality” in capital punishment cases at the expense of “accuracy.” It would cost Alabama nothing to let Arthur’s lawyers do the testing. And it might solve a case that already has cost the state millions of dollars. Instead, Alabama wants to finally solve its Arthur problem by executing him. No matter how the new DNA test could come out, the state is more interested in defending its dubious conviction.
Alabama can thank the five conservatives on the Supreme Court for its ability to deny Arthur an opportunity to prove his innocence. In 2009, a 5-4 Supreme Court denied a similar DNA test to a potentially innocent man in Alaska.
This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.
Photo from decade_null via flickr