Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday (Aug. 25) set the date for the state Department of Corrections to execute death-row inmate Jack Greene on Nov. 9, 2017, opening the door for Arkansas’ fifth death sentence in 2017.
The scheduled trip to the death chamber, which will take place exactly two weeks before Thanksgiving, comes just over a week after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent a letter to Hutchinson requesting an execution date be set for longtime death-row inmate convicted of capital murder on Oct. 15, 1993 and sentenced to death in the Circuit Court of Johnson County.
In his official proclamation with the seal of the State of Arkansas, Hutchinson’s decree will be the ninth death sentence he set in 2017 after setting execution dates two at a time for eight inmates over an 11-day period starting April 17 and ending April 27.
“It has become my duty pursuant to law and official policy to fix the date and day for carrying into effect the sentence and judgment of the Circuit Court of Johnson County, Arkansas, as affirmed …,” Hutchinson’s said in his proclamation.
Greene was convicted for the 1991 murder of 69-year old Sidney Burnett, a preacher living in Knoxville in Johnson County. According to court reports and media accounts, Greene tortured, stabbed and shot Burnett for helping his ex-girlfriend who was trying to escape from Greene’s abuse. Before killing Burnett, Greene had traveled the week before to North Carolina and shot and killed his brother, Tommy Greene.
Ledell Lee was the first inmate to be executed on April 20, the state’s first visit to the death chamber in more than a decade. Marcel Williams and Jack Jones were executed April 24, marking the first time since 2000 a state executed two inmates in one day. Kenneth B. Williams became the fourth Arkansas death-row inmate to die by lethal injection at the hands of the state in the period of seven days on April 27.
However, in separate legal actions, stays of executions were granted for Don Davis, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson and Jason McGehee. Following Williams’ execution in late April, ADC’s last supply of the lethal injection drug midazolam expired only a few days afterwards.
ADC spokesman Solomon Graves told Talk Business & Politics last week that state Corrections officials on Aug. 4 acquired a new supply of midazolam, the controversial sedative that has been at the center of recent court hearings concerning botched executions in Oklahoma and other states.
According to a receipt obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Greene’s attorney, ADC Director Wendy Kelley purchased a new supply for $250. The name of the supplier was redacted in keeping with state law passed two years ago that allows ADC officials to keep secret the information about the manufacturer, supplier and other details of drugs to execute death-row inmates.
Assistant Federal Defender Scott Braden, Jack Greene’s attorney, provided the following statement concerning Gov. Hutchinson’s Nov. 9 execution date:
“The State has taken the next step toward executing a man who suffers from severe mental illness. Mr. Greene has long held a fixed delusion that the Arkansas Department of Correction is conspiring with his attorneys to cover up injuries that he believes corrections officers have inflicted upon him. He complains that his spinal cord has been removed and his central nervous system has been destroyed. He believes he will be executed to cover up what he calls these ‘crimes against humanity.’
“In the coming weeks, it’s imperative that the appropriate decision-makers consider whether the State should execute a man in such a feeble mental state. The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of someone who cannot rationally comprehend his execution. Two-and-a-half decades of solitary confinement — piled on top of Mr. Greene’s existing mental fragility — call the legality of Mr. Greene’s execution into serious doubt.”