Hutchinson's office says he will set execution of Jack Gordon Greene, state has drugs | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hutchinson's office says he will set execution of Jack Gordon Greene, state has drugs

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge JACK GORDON GREENE: This photo was taken down from ADC's website to hide his illness, say Greene's attorneys. - ADC
  • ADC
  • JACK GORDON GREENE: This photo was taken down from ADC's website to hide his illness, say Greene's attorneys.
The Arkansas Department of Correction has the drugs it needs to perform an execution and Governor Hutchinson plans to set a date for Jack Gordon Greene to be put to death, a spokesman for the governor said today.

UPDATE (4:37 p.m.) ADC spokesperson Solomon Graves said the agency "acquired a supply of midazolam on August 4, 2017. Once the Governor issues a warrant, the ADC will be prepared to carry out the sentence."

Here is a document showing the purchase, obtained by the Arkansas Times from the ADC.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge delivered this afternoon a letter to Hutchinson requesting a date to be set for the execution of Greene. (It is attached below.)

"We've received the letter from the attorney general's office. The governor will set a date, but there is no specific timeline," said J.R. Davis, communications director for the governor.

Greene was convicted of the 1992 Johnson County murder of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten, stabbed, shot and mutilated.

Arkansas received national attention for planning eight executions in a historically short period in April because the sedative drug used in Arkansas's execution protocol, midazolam, was set to expire at the end of the month. Many have claimed that midazolam is ineffective as a sedative to ensure that pain does not occur during an execution. (Here is a long article from our archive on those executions).

The major lingering question: If Arkansas planned to kill eight men in 11 days because the drugs were running out, and it would be hard to acquire new drugs, how has the state already acquired the drugs again?

"It was stated that it would be difficult but not impossible [to acquire the drugs]," said Davis.

ADC refused to answer questions on the ability of the agency to expediently obtain more of the execution drugs or make ADC Wendy Kelley available for questions — even after prompting about ADC Director Wendy Kelley's testimony that she told the Governor obtaining the drugs would be extremely difficult and that she was involved in the process of planning the execution dates with the Governor.

"Once again, questions relating to the setting of an execution date, should be directed to the Governor’s Office. Director Kelley is out of state at a conference and unavailable for comment," said Graves.

In April, only four of the eight executions were carried out by the state. The executions of Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Jason McGehee, and Stacey Johnson were all stalled, but not because of the potential ineffectiveness of the drugs.

The executions planned for Davis and Ward were stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether indigent defendants are entitled to mental experts who are independent of prosecutors. The parole board recommended clemency for McGehee, on which Governor Hutchinson has not yet taken action. And, Johnson was granted a stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court in order for a lower court to review new DNA-testing.

There are grave concerns in attempting to execute Greene, say his lawyers.

The following is a statement released by John C. Williams, Assistant Federal Defender, Federal Public Defender Office (and a former employee of the Arkansas Times):

“Today the Attorney General has requested an execution date for a severely mentally ill man. Jack Greene has well-documented brain damage and mental illness. He has long suffered from a fixed delusion that the Arkansas Department of Correction is conspiring with his attorneys to cover up injuries that he believes corrections officers have inflicted upon him. He complains that his spinal cord has been removed and his central nervous system has been destroyed. He believes he will be executed to cover up what he calls these 'crimes against humanity.' Mr. Greene’s severe somatic delusions cause him to constantly twist his body and stuff his ear and nose with toilet paper to cope with the pain. By doing so, Mr. Greene frequently causes himself to bleed, as can been seen in the [above] photo.

“Capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill. We hope Governor Hutchinson will refrain from setting an execution date for Mr. Greene since he is not competent for execution.”

UPDATE (5:27 p.m.) The statement from Williams also says that ADC took down the above photo of Greene today — in which he looks visibly ill — for a more sanitized version. Here is the photo now on ADC's inmate database:

  • ADC
The executions that were carried out also were heavily scrutinized, specifically the death of Kenneth Williams.

Williams, who was executed on April 27, was reported to have jerked and convulsed upward of 20 times and audibly "moaned" — among other movements — after the time officials said the paralytic drug was administered.

If the paralytic drug, vecuronium bromide, was delivered while Williams was still moving this would be in direct contradiction of a procedure ADC Director Wendy Kelley described in federal court. Kelley said that "any movement" would prompt a second consciousness check.

As Dale Baich, an experienced death penalty defense attorney who witnessed a botched execution in Arizona told me, this could also mean Williams was in pain:
"At a minimum, this was a deviation from the protocol. More profound, Mr. Williams was [potentially] conscious and was suffocated before the third drug was administered, which means he would have felt like he was burning. What is important is that all the evidence be preserved and that an independent investigation is conducted to get to the bottom of what went wrong with this execution, and the other three that took place this week."
The supplier of execution drugs for Arkansas is not public knowledge. However, ADC provided some publicly available documents concerning the most recent purchase of midazolam. They show that the state paid $250.00 for the midazolam and "picked up" the vials.
The state has not always paid for its execution drugs, according to testimony from Wendy Kelley in response to challenges to the executions planned in April, the third drug, potassium chloride, was "donated" when Wendy Kelley drove to pick it up for the April executions.

From our reporting on Kelley's testimony:
A surprising disclosure was that the potassium chloride, the third drug in Arkansas’s three-drug protocol, which causes heart failure, was “donated” to the state of Arkansas. Arkansas did not have its needed supply of potassium chloride when the executions were announced. But last month the ADC found a supplier. Kelley said she drove to pick up the potassium chloride, put it in her car and then began a conversation about the method of payment with the supplier. She told the supplier that the payment would have to be processed through another department and, according to Kelley, “[the supplier] said, ‘Nevermind, I’ll just donate it.’ ” The supplier was worried about his or her identity being revealed to the public through the payment process.
And, Kelley also said that a supplier — on the same day they sold another drugs to the state — wanted them back.
Kelley also revealed problems in obtaining the other drugs necessary for Arkansas’s protocol. She told the court that these drugs were bought from a supplier and then — that same day — the supplier contacted her to undo the deal. The supplier wanted the drugs back. “But, I did not return the drugs,” she said. The supplier continued to contact state officials and Kelley, according to her testimony, in an attempt to have the drugs returned.

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