Arkansas' oldest death-row prisoner will have an execution date set, the governor's office announced Thursday, just as a prison spokesman revealed the state had acquired a drug to carry out further lethal injections.
Jack Gordon Greene, 62, was convicted by a Johnson County jury in October 1992 of capital murder for killing a minister. Greene's first execution date was set for that December. Appeals delayed that sentence and reached the Arkansas Supreme Court and later the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear his case earlier this year.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge informed Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday that Greene had exhausted his appeals, and she asked that an execution date be set.
A spokesman for the governor confirmed receipt of Rutledge's hand-delivered letter in the late afternoon and said Hutchinson planned to set a date, though it's unclear when.
Arkansas carried out an aggressive execution schedule in April, drawing international media attention to Little Rock and the prison system's Cummins Unit, the site of the state's death chamber.
At the time, facing the expiration of one of the state's three execution drugs, Hutchinson scheduled eight executions over 11 days in April. Four executions took place, and courts blocked the other four sentences from being carried out.
Solomon Graves, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, said in a text message Thursday that the state had acquired a new batch of the expired drug, midazolam, clearing the way for executions to resume.
Three of the men spared lethal injection in April have renewed court battles in their cases -- making them ineligible to have new execution dates set right away -- while the fourth received a clemency recommendation that is still being reviewed by the governor.
That left Greene, whose petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the nation's high court on May 1, as the only prisoner on Arkansas' 30-man death row eligible to have his execution date set, according to Rutledge's spokesman, Judd Deere.
Attempts to stay the execution will likely focus on Greene's mental health, which his attorneys at the Federal Public Defenders Office in Little Rock described as feeble.
A photo of Greene dressed in prison whites, with a bloodied clump of tissues shoved up his nose, was released by his lawyers shortly after the attorney general's office released its letter requesting an execution.
That picture depicted the result of "severe somatic delusions" that cause Greene to stuff toilet paper in his ears and nose to the point of bleeding, and to "constantly twist his body," according to a statement from Assistant Federal Defender John Williams.
"[Greene] complains that his spinal cord has been removed and his central nervous system has been destroyed," Williams said in a statement calling on Hutchinson not to set an execution date.
"He believes he will be executed to cover up what he calls these 'crimes against humanity.'"
Deere, Rutledge's spokesman, declined to comment on Williams' argument that Greene is unfit to be executed.
At his trial, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives, Greene read a statement to jurors apologizing for killing 69-year-old Sidney Burnett, a retired pastor who had once provided shelter to Greene.
Days before that murder in July 1991, Greene killed his brother, Tommy, in North Carolina. He was sentenced to life in prison for that killing, but the sentence was thrown out in court. He was not resentenced.
"He didn't deserve to die," Jack Greene said of Burnett, according to the newspaper. "I was totally out of control."
Before he can be executed by lethal injection, Greene has the opportunity to seek clemency from the Parole Board. Burnett's family members will be able to speak in opposition.
Arkansas' three-drug execution protocol -- using midazolam, a sedative, followed by a pair of drugs to stop the heart and breathing -- was also the subject of vigorous court battles seeking to halt April's execution schedule.
However, none of the executions in Arkansas was called off because of allegations that the lethal-injection procedure was unconstitutionally cruel, and no court orders block the state from using the procedure again.
State law also allows the Department of Correction to keep secret the suppliers of its execution drugs. Graves, the prison spokesman, declined to say who sold the state its newest supply of midazolam. Redacted receipts show the 50 vials cost $250.
A Section on 08/18/2017
Print Headline: Drug fresh, '91 killer to have execution set