Douglas Arthur and his sister, Sherrie Stone, have been on an emotional rollercoaster for 40 years, and now they are preparing for what they believe could be their last ride.
Their father, Tommy Arthur, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 3, for his involvement in the 1982 murder-for-hire death of Muscle Shoals resident Troy Wicker.
"I was 15 when my father went to prison (for the 1st time). I am now 55, and been through 40 years of appeals and scheduled executions," said Stone. "This is my father's 7th scheduled execution. I'm not sure if he will be executed. The 6 previous scheduled executions, a few right up to just hours before, were stayed."
Douglas Arthur, Stone's younger brother, believes his father's execution will happen this time.
Like his sister, Arthur has endured 6 occasions when it appeared his father would be executed.
Arthur, now 54, said he has visited his father numerous times in prison and still keeps in contact through telephone calls. In a recent call, his father said he would be moved to a holding cell early this week for inmates who are about to be executed.
"I've been down there to see him a lot, but haven't lately," Arthur said. "I haven't seen him in about 8 years."
Stone has never taken a stance "one way or the other" on the death penalty. But this week she said the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 should be amended if the death penalty is going to be continued to be used.
"My stance now is the death penalty is cruel and inhumane. It should be abolished," Stone said. "Not because it is cruel and inhumane to death row inmates, because it is cruel and inhumane to the families of the victims and the families of the convicted."
Speaking from experience, she said every time a death row inmate is scheduled to die, families pack up and go to death row, get ready for the execution, relive the crimes and trauma all over again.
"I still have the same suit I bought for the 1st (execution)," she said. "I've made funeral arrangements 6 times; 40 years of this is not justice."
The Alabama Supreme Court set execution dates for Stone's father in 2011, twice in 2007, in 2008, in 2012 and in 2015. Earlier this month the Nov. 3 date was set.
Stone described the emotions of a death row experience as a combination of a "poison and a terminal illness."
"It's like a slow poison robbing you of life and the ability to put it behind you," she said. "At least life in prison without the possibility of parole eliminates so many appeals and the scheduled executions.
"For the death penalty to be called justice is a lie to the American people," she said. "I wonder how many families feel closure after decades of this - the answer may surprise all of us."
Arthur, who now lives in Florida, said he opposes any form of execution.
"I think it's unethical to kill anybody at 74 years old, whether it's my dad or not," he said. "I just don't think it's ethical for anybody to kill anybody. In the Bible, that's one of the commandments is thou shall not kill. I don't believe Christ would want anybody to kill anybody."
Tommy Arthur was accused of having a relationship with Judy Wicker, and then being paid $10,000 by her to kill her husband, Troy Wicker.
Reports indicate Arthur was on state work release when he shot and killed Wicker while the victim was asleep in his bed in Muscle Shoals.
In October 1982, Judy Wicker was found guilty of murder in connection with her husband's death. She was sentenced to life and received parole after serving 10 years in prison.
"I feel very strongly that our judicial system has serious flaws, especially in death sentences," Stone said. "With that being said, I used that to justify many of my actions when fighting for justice for my father, when deep down I really felt he deserved being where he is.
"I spent so many years, decades, in a cycle of trying to free myself, thinking if I could just prove he was innocent, or guilty for that matter, it would free me of the cycle and set me free. Words cannot describe the emotional turmoil and struggles within myself throughout most of my life. The relationship issues, food struggles, excessive behavior to name a few."
She said she saw a few therapists, but that didn't help.
"They did not have a clue what to do, except try and prescribe drugs," she said. "A few suggested support groups. There were not too many groups out there where your father is on death row. I can tell you all the groups I tried. My stories were very different than all the others."
Douglas Arthur said he and his sister had a difficult childhood because of their father's arrests. Their mother did not keep the children, so they lived with their grandparents.
"We had a dysfunctional family for sure," he said. "Me and my sister took care of each other growing up. I had to learn how to get out and mow yards and all that to have something to eat.
"It was a hard life. We're OK now, but I have bad memories because I never got to grow up with my dad."
Stone said their father was violent, beating their mother.
"He beat and shot my first stepmother. He beat my second stepmother, and shot and killed her sister and almost killed her cousin," Stone said. "He went to prison for that, got out and killed Troy Wicker while on work release. He went to death row, got several new trials. While being held in county jail for one of those trials, he escaped, shot a police officer, robbed a bank and took a hostage.
"I was arrested (in connection to the escape) and almost went to prison. Everyone thought I helped him escape. I stood trial and was acquitted," she said.
She said her father beat her, her brother and their pets, and because of all the violence, she said she can't remember large portions of her childhood.
She does remember a time when her father was on work release and would bring Troy Wicker's wife, Judy, to her grandparents' house in Sheffield.
"Shortly after, Troy was dead," Stone said.
Stone described her father as "evil, violent and manipulative." She added his actions have negatively affected so many people's lives and "left a wake of destruction in his path."
"To most people it is hard to comprehend that one of your parents can be evil," she said. "It is unconceivable that a parent would prey on their daughter or son's deep desire to have a parent that is normal and loving, and to use that to their advantage at any cost - even to the point of risking their lives and/or freedom."
Arthur said his father's capital murder conviction in the Troy Wicker case crushed his hopes of his father's release from prison.
"All of a sudden, bam, they tried to pin this killing of Troy Wicker on him," Douglas Arthur said. "I was like, 'What? My dad was fixing to get out and now they're having a trial?'"
Things spiraled from there for Arthur, who graduated from Sheffield High School in 1981, but does not have pleasant memories of his school years.
"We just lost everything we had," he said. "When I was going to school, people disowned me. I couldn't get friends, and nobody at Sheffield would date me. I had a girlfriend from Muscle Shoals."
Trying to move on
Despite everything he has been through, Arthur said, "I love my dad and always have."
Arthur and his sister both live in Florida, trying to move on with their lives. He said he has undergone 8 knee surgeries. He married twice with both ending in divorce.
He said his sister, who works in real estate, appears to have given up on the case and is trying to move on with her life. "Sherrie's just like, there's nothing else we can do."
Stone said she is ready to end the cycle that she has been in that revolves around her father.
"I am curious how many of us have been in the vicious cycle created by his actions," she said. "I am ending the cycle. The truth is what sets me free. It is my gift to give myself, and I have the power.
"My heart goes out to the families of those he killed and to the families of those he injured in some way. I am so sorry for your loss and pain. I pray you find peace if you have not been able to. There are probably many others we do not know about.
"The truth always finds you, no matter who you are. His truth has come full circle. So has mine. One chapter closes, another chapter begins. Life for life if you will."
Arthur and Stone have been to Holman Correctional Facility previous times when they thought their father would be executed. They aren't planning on being there this time.
Arthur said some members of the church he attends said they are praying for him and will continue to on the scheduled execution day. A neighbor plans to stay with him while it takes place, and so will his sister.
"The truth always finds you and at some point you either face it or continue a vicious cycle," Stone said. "I have decided to face mine and end the cycle. I'm pretty sure my father's truth has found him as well."
Source: Times Daily, October 30, 2016
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