LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge dismissed an effort Friday to halt next week’s planned execution of a convicted killer despite his attorneys’ arguments that he’s not mentally competent.
The ruling came shortly after Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was unlikely to grant clemency to Jack Greene, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday night. Greene was convicted in the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and later shot.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis dismissed a lawsuit filed by Greene’s attorneys challenging an Arkansas law that gives the state’s top prisons official authority to determine an inmate’s mental competency. Dennis ruled that the state Supreme Court had already upheld the law as constitutional. Dennis also said she did not have the authority to halt Greene’s execution.
Greene’s attorneys plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. They argue that Greene suffers from psychotic delusions and believes prison officials and his attorneys are conspiring to cover up injuries he believes corrections officers inflicted on him.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly found that severely mentally ill death row prisoners like Mr. Greene must have access to competency hearings presided over by neutral decision makers in order to prevent unconstitutional execution,” Scott Braden, an assistant federal defender representing Greene, said in a statement Friday.
The state said it was prepared to defend its plan to execute Greene.
“The attorney general continues to believe the execution will occur as scheduled, but is prepared to respond to any and all challenges from inmate Greene in the days leading up to the execution,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
If carried out, Greene’s execution would be the first since Arkansas put four inmates to death over an eight- day period in April. Arkansas originally planned to put eight inmates to death over an 11-day period, scheduling the executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired, but four of the executions were blocked by the courts.
Hutchinson scheduled Greene’s execution in August after the state obtained a new supply of midazolam, the expired drug. The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state to identify the manufacturer of the drug, saying the information was not protected by an execution drug secrecy measure.
The ruling, which requires a lower court to determine what information on the drug’s label other than the manufacturer can be withheld, doesn’t directly address Greene’s execution and will take effect early next week. Hutchinson earlier Friday said he was unlikely to halt Greene’s execution. The state Parole Board last month recommended Hutchinson not grant clemency, rejecting Greene’s argument that he was not mentally competent. Hutchinson said he believed Greene was mentally competent based on U.S. Supreme Court standards, and didn’t plan on granting clemency.
“I’ve seen nothing that causes me concern in proceeding forth at this point,” Hutchinson told reporters. “Obviously, we will continue to receive any information, continue to evaluate that, but at this point the execution is still scheduled and will remain on schedule.