Death Penalty

Alabama inmate is executed; Sotomayor dissent criticizes midazolam and lawyer phone ban

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Alabama inmate Thomas “Tommy” Arthur was executed early Friday, the eighth time an execution had been scheduled for him.

Arthur, 75, was put to death for the 1982 murder of his lover’s husband after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution, spurring a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, report the Washington Post, and the Montgomery Advertiser.

According to, the execution began at about 11:50 p.m. when Arthur received the first of three execution drugs. Arthur “slowly drifted off,” says, “and his breathing became more shallow.” He was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m.

Before the execution started, Arthur apologized to his children in a final statement. “I’m sorry I failed you as a father,” he said. “I love you more than anything on Earth.”

The U.S. Supreme Court had initially stayed Arthur’s execution on Thursday, then allowed it to proceed.

Sotomayor expressed concern about use of the execution sedative midazolam in her dissent (PDF). “I continue to doubt whether midazolam is capable of rendering prisoners insensate to the excruciating pain of lethal injection and thus whether midazolam may be constitutionally used in lethal injection protocols,” she wrote.

“Here, the state has—with the blessing of the courts below—compounded the risks inherent in the use of midazolam by denying Arthur’s counsel access to a phone through which to seek legal relief if the execution fails to proceed as planned.”

Sotomayor said there was no legitimate reason to bar Arthur’s counsel from possessing a phone during the execution.

“The state’s refusal serves only to frustrate any effort by Arthur’s attorneys to petition the courts in the event of yet another botched execution,” she said. “Its action means that when Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber tonight, he will leave his constitutional rights at the door.”

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

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