LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas’ highest court on Tuesday halted this week’s planned execution of an inmate who is severely mentally ill according to his lawyers, 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 said she did not plan to ask the state high court to reconsider or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“With no written order or explanation provided, the Arkansas Supreme Court has once again delayed justice for the family of Sidney Burnett,” Rutledge said in a statement released by her office. “I will continue to fight for justice for Sidney Burnett and to give the Burnett family the closure they deserve.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also expressed disappointment with the ruling, which scrapped Arkansas’ plan to resume executions after the state put four inmates to death over an eight-day period in April.
“Last-minute delays are always very difficult and only prolong the justice the Burnett family was promised more than 20 years ago,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “This case has been reviewed by the courts on numerous occasions, and the state must now await further court action before the penalty given by an Arkansas jury is carried out.”
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 Steven Shults, 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.
Attorneys for Shults said the Department of Correction had complied with Pierce’s order. The Correction Department declined an Associated Press request for the same material, saying officials would consider the request after Wednesday’s hearing.
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.
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