Alabama execution delayed after confession

A death-row inmate in Alabama was granted a last-minute reprieve by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday evening after another convict confessed to the murder for which he was to die.

Thomas Arthur, 66, was to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday at the state prison in Atmore, Ala., for the murder of his lover's husband in 1982. He was paid $10,000 for killing the husband, Troy Wicker, 35, according to testimony by the woman who said she'd hired him, Judy Wicker.

On Monday, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in Alabama stepped forward with a handwritten affidavit claiming he was responsible for the murder. The convict, Bobby Ray Gilbert, said in the affidavit that he shot Wicker in the face at the behest of Judy Wicker, whom he said he had met in a nightclub.

On Wednesday evening, the Alabama Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the execution pending further court orders. The court did not give a reason.

The Alabama attorney general's office earlier had dismissed the new affidavit as “wholly without credibility,” pointing to Gilbert's multiple convictions, and Wicker herself cast doubt on its veracity.

Gilbert is serving time for two murders, for assaulting an inmate “with the intent to commit murder,” and for escape.

In her sworn statement, Wicker, who served time in the killing, said “none of Gilbert's allegations are true. I do not know anyone named Bobby Gilbert.” She said she had hired Arthur to kill her husband, and had watched him do so.