Alabama Denies DNA Test To Potentially Innocent Man On Death Row


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.


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British Mother on Death Row in Texas

10 Reasons to End The Death Penalty Now


Photo from decade_null via flickr


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

wow. there shouldnt even be a death penalty

John Trent
John Trent5 years ago

I am posting this story on as a public record of judicial abuse in this country. NOBODY should be above the law, and this case is the most egregious abuse of judicial power to potentially free an innocent man who served a sentence for a crime he did not commit.

Innocent people ought to have a right to SUE the people who railroaded them, and charge THEM with the crimes they committed to gain the conviction. I beg everyone reading this to read my post on and and sign the petition to REPEAL JUDICIAL IMMUNITY.

For ONCE in the 200 years this country has been in existence, the PEOPLE should have the right to IMPRISON and SUE those who use the LAW to committ crimes against innocent people and then get away with it.

Cinzia B.
Cynthia B5 years ago

Every inmate should have the right to get DNA test

Susan V.
Susan V5 years ago


This on the heels of the judge and former prosecutor in Texas now facing criminal charges for blocking evidence and DNA testing that later freed Michal Morton. If Alabama does the same, whoever is responsible should face criminal charges as well.

(this photo is not Arthur - I am waiting on permission to use the photo you can see on the innocence project webpage below)

Joy Dantine
Joy Dantine5 years ago

That in itself, is, in my logic, a crime against humanity.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

it would cost nothing to do the testing and a man's life hangs in the balance and nothing is being done! wow that's scary! i'd hate to think that would happen if i were on death row! our "justice" system is whack!

Nancy L.
Nancy L5 years ago

Thanks for posting. DNA testing should be automatic for people on death row.

Scott Gurstein
Scott Gurstein5 years ago

I *HOPE* they perform the DNA test after they go ahead and murder this defendant, and I *HOPE* the DNA test proves CONCLUSIVELY that they MURDERED the wrong man! If Alabama MUST kill this man regardless of true guilt or innocence, then I want his execution to be PROVEN to have been a greivous error. I know that seem counter-intuitive, but trying to reason with far-right wingers about the difference between a CONVICTION and ACTUAL GUILT is completely futile and pointless. So, GO AHEAD ALABAMA...go ahead and "do" the next Troy Davis! And afterwards, LET'S ABSOLUTELY have the DNA test! And may the DNA test PROVE he was INNOCENT BEYOND ANY DOUBT! I wanna see heads roll for this...

Charles P.
Charles P5 years ago

The arrogance of the courts and court officers constantly amazes me. At one time I was okay with the death penalty but then came DNA among other things and I decided that I could not support it anymore with the chance of an innocent being executed. These bastards that seek closure rather than truth must not really believe in god. Otherwise they would taken no chances with innocent lives. They must believe that they will never have to answer for theri misdeeds.

Cheri L.
Cheri L5 years ago

I would make a snide comment about south of the Mason/Dixon line but Indiana convicted a man of rape when the DNA ruled him out as the perpetrator.