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Attorney For Death Row Inmate Seeks To Block Execution

Michael Hibblen

An attorney for an Arkansas death row inmate is asking Gov. Asa Hutchinson to deny Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request to set a date for his execution. Jack Gordon Greene was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of Sidney Jethro Burnett at his home in Johnson County.

Greene’s court-appointed attorney is John C. Williams with the office of the Federal Public Defender. He argues that Greene’s declining mental state could render his execution unconstitutional.

“To be executed, you have to be mentally competent. Our client is profoundly mentally ill,” Williams said in an interview with KUAR. “We’ve got some real concerns about whether it would violate the Eighth Amendment to execute him given his mental disability.”

Greene has a long history of mental illness. In a statement, Williams said that Greene suffers from severe delusions, and believes that the Arkansas Department of Correction will execute him in order to cover up abuses. Williams argues that years of solitary confinement have degraded Greene’s mental competency.

“He had some competence issues come up at the trial, and he’s had a couple of sentencings. The fact of the matter is, one’s mental competence changes over time, especially when you’re in a situation like he’s in, solitary confinement, a person’s mental state really deteriorates and I think you can definitely see that with him," Williams said.

Gov. Hutchinson told KUAR News that due process was followed in assessing whether Greene is mentally sound enough to be executed.

“From my experience, in these cases, really every issue has been raised in the lower courts, have been reviewed by the federal courts, the state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, so that issue very likely would have been resolved as well,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said he has not formally responded to the attorney general's request, but expects to go through with scheduling Greene’s execution date.

“I have not studied the file yet, we will proceed accordingly after consulting with the Department of Corrections, and we will set a date, but it will probably be a little bit in the future before we set that date,” Hutchinson said.

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.
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