A Birmingham circuit court judge has ordered DNA testing in the case of Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur to assist her in evaluating another person’s confession to the crime for which Mr. Arthur was convicted and sentenced to death.
The Alabama Supreme Court stayed Tommy Arthur’s execution on July 30, 2008, after Bobby Ray Gilbert signed an affidavit saying that he committed the crime that sent Mr. Arthur to death row.
The Jefferson County Circuit Court ordered DNA testing of physical evidence that could link Gilbert to the offense, including a wig that Gilbert said he wore during the 1982 murder-for-hire of Troy Wicker Jr. at his Muscle Shoals home.
Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam said she would take advantage of the opportunity for scientific testing to confirm or disprove the reliability of Gilbert’s affidavit, the contents of which he recently affirmed in court. “I believe when science is available to aid the court in assessing credibility, we should give science a chance,” Pulliam said.
Tommy Arthur has been asking for years for testing of other DNA evidence that he says will exonerate him. In a hearing last week, Angelo Della Manna, chief of forensic biology and DNA for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that the DNA sample is believed to have been destroyed in 1982 after prosecutors determined it was not crucial evidence.