Arkansas to set execution after receiving lethal injection drug
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas has a new supply of a controversial lethal injection drug months after the state put four men to death over an eight-day period, officials said Thursday, as the state prepared to set an execution date for an inmate.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office said he planned to schedule an execution for Jack Greene after a request from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Greene was convicted in the 1991 killing of Sidney Jethro Burnett after Burnett and his wife accused Greene of arson. He has exhausted his appeals and there’s no stay of execution in place, Rutledge told the governor in her request.
Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said he doesn’t have a timeline yet for scheduling Greene’s execution.
Arkansas executed four prisoners in April but had intended to put eight men to death. The state scheduled the executions to occur before its supply of midazolam, a sedative used in its three-drug lethal injection process, expired. Department of Correction Spokesman Solomon Graves said the state obtained the new supply on Aug. 4 and it expires in January 2019. A state law keeps the source of the state’s execution drugs secret.
Documents released by the Department of Correction show the state paid $250 in cash for 40 vials of midazolam. Based on the state’s lethal injection protocol, the supply appears to be enough midazolam for two executions.
Greene’s attorneys argue that he is severely mentally ill, saying he suffers from a fixed delusion that prison officials are conspiring with his attorneys to cover up injuries he believes corrections officers have inflicted on him. The delusions cause Greene to constantly twist his body and stuff his ear and nose with toilet paper to cope with the pain, his attorneys said.
“Capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill,” John C. Williams, an assistant federal defender representing Greene, said in a statement. “We hope Governor Hutchinson will refrain from setting an execution date for Mr. Greene since he is not competent for execution.”
The executions in April were Arkansas’ first since 2005 and its first using midazolam. Death penalty opponents say the drug is incapable of inducing unconsciousness or preventing serious pain. The sedative has been used in several problematic executions. Kenneth Williams, one of the inmates Arkansas put to death in April using the drug, lurched and convulsed 20 times during his execution.
Hutchinson rejected calls for an outside probe of the executions after Williams was put to death.
Greene was not among the four inmates who had been set for execution but then spared by court rulings. Three of those inmates have appeals pending, while Hutchinson is still weighing the Arkansas Parole Board’s recommendation that he grant clemency to a fourth prisoner, Jason McGehee.
Prosecutors said Greene beat Burnett with a can of hominy before stabbing him and slitting his throat. Greene had three trials. Death sentences in his first two were overturned because prosecutors improperly used a separate court case as an aggravating circumstance.
At the sentencing phase in his third trial, the court wouldn’t let Greene show jurors a letter he had received from Burnett’s widow, forgiving him. The court said it didn’t reflect on Greene’s character and couldn’t count as a mitigating factor.
The state is moving forward with the execution while cases are pending before the state Supreme Court and a lower court over a medical supply company’s efforts to prevent another drug from being used to put inmates to death. McKesson Medical-Surgical has argued the state purchased its supply of vecuronium bromide from the company under false pretenses.
The state’s supply of vecuronium bromide expires in March 2018. Its supply of another drug used in its lethal injection process, potassium chloride, expires at the end of August 2018.