An inmate once called the "Houdini" of Alabama's death row for escaping seven past execution dates through legal challenges was put to death early Friday for a 1982 murder-for-hire shooting. Tommy Arthur, 75, was pronounced dead at 12:15am following a lethal injection administered at a southwest Alabama prison, authorities said. Arthur was convicted of killing riverboat engineer Troy Wicker, who was fatally shot as he slept in his bed in the north Alabama city of Muscle Shoals. Arthur's lawyers filed a flurry of last-minute appeals in a bid to halt the execution, but the US Supreme Court opened the way for the execution to proceed shortly before 11pm Thursday, the AP reports.
The state set seven execution dates for Arthur between 2001 and 2016. All were delayed as a pro bono legal team fought his sentence. "Thirty-four years after he was first sentenced to death ... Thomas Arthur's protracted attempt to escape justice is finally at an end," Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. In his final statement, Arthur appeared to cry and got choked up as he said he wanted to apologize to his four children and said each of their names. "I'm sorry I failed you as a father. I love you more than anything on earth," he said. Wicker's two sons, whose mother served 10 years of a life sentence for her role in the murder, witnessed the execution but did not make a statement to the media. (Read more Alabama stories.)