LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ highest court on Tuesday halted this week’s planned execution of an inmate whose lawyers claim is severely mentally ill, while a state judge ordered officials to release more information about one of the lethal injection drugs they had planned to use.
In a 5-2 ruling, the state Supreme Court granted the emergency stay requested for Jack Greene. He was scheduled to die Thursday night for the 1991 slaying of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and shot. The court did not elaborate on the reasons for granting the stay in its one-page order.
Greene’s attorneys asked for the stay so justices could review a lower court’s decision to dismiss his challenge of a state law that gives Arkansas’ top prison official the authority to determine whether he is competent. Greene’s attorneys say he believes the attorneys and prison officials have conspired to torture him. Greene has said his lawyers are lying and that he does not suffer from a mental impairment.
“Today’s order means that our client, Jack Greene, will have the opportunity to make the case that he should receive an independent hearing about his competency for execution,” Scott Braden, an assistant federal defender representing Greene, said in a statement.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office did not immediately have a comment on the court’s order. Rutledge earlier Tuesday accused Greene’s attorneys of not actually making any effort to show the inmate isn’t competent.
“Now — having avoided execution for more than two decades — Greene asks this court to grant him a last minute stay of execution so he can litigate the latest version of the repeatedly rejected claim that he is not competent,” Rutledge said in Tuesday’s filing.
Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since it put to death four inmates 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. Greene’s execution was scheduled after the state obtained a new supply of the drug, midazolam.
A state judge, meanwhile, ordered officials to release more information about the midazolam supply after the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the Arkansas Department of Correction had to release the name of the drug manufacturer. The ruling, which took effect Tuesday, ordered the lower court to determine whether other information on the midazolam label could identify the drug’s supplier and should be withheld. Arkansas law keeps the source of its execution drugs secret, but justices ruled that secrecy applies only to sellers and suppliers of the drug.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ordered the state to release the package inserts for the drug to the attorney who sued for the information by late Tuesday, but said he’ll hold a hearing Wednesday over what information should be withheld from the drug’s label before it’s released.
Greene, who is from North Carolina, was convicted of killing Burnett after Burnett and his wife accused Greene of arson. Authorities say Burnett killed his brother in North Carolina days before Burnett’s death.