Jack Greene was granted an emergency stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday, two days before he was scheduled to be executed.
Greene’s attorneys requested the stay so the court could consider a lower court ruling that dismissed their challenge to a state law that says a death row prisoner can be found
incompetent to be executed only if the prison’s director asks for a mental health evaluation.
“The U.S Constitution prohibits the execution of prisoners with mental illness so severe that they lack a rational understanding of the punishment, yet Arkansas law gives the Department of Correction director sole discretion over such proceedings, denying the prisoners’ due process rights,” Scott Braden, Greene’s attorney, said in a statement, reported by Reuters.
The Arkansas Times reports that 28 mental health professionals and the American Bar Association have sent letters to Gov. Asa Hutchinson protesting Greene’s execution on the grounds that Greene does not understand the reason he is being executed. The U.S. Supreme Court found in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) that a prisoner must be aware of his pending execution and the reason for it.
The 62-year-old Greene was sentenced to death in 1991 for the killing of Sidney Burnett, a 69-year-old retired minister.
The stay was not the only setback for Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, both of whom criticized the ruling. On Wednesday, the state, in response to a court order, released documents that indicated that the Buffalo, New York-based pharmaceutical company, Athenex, manufactured the midazolam that was to be used in the execution of Greene. Athenex does not allow its drugs to be used in executions, and posted a statement on its website making its position clear:
“Athenex does not want any of our products used in capital punishment. Since inception of marketing these products, Athenex implemented appropriate distribution controls and other measures with our wholesaler partners to prevent our products being used in capital punishment. Athenex does not accept orders from correctional facilities and prison systems for products believed to be part of certain states’ lethal injection protocols.”
Arkansas Online reports that a company spokesman told the paper that it was in contact with its distributors and asked them to identify which of their clients had sold the drugs to the Arkansas Department of Correction. The paper says, “Athenex is the fourth company this year to suggest Arkansas prison officials skirted safeguards in order to obtain lethal-injection drugs.”
Greene’s execution would have been the fifth this year. Arkansas executed four prisoners over 11 days in April.