November 30, 2017

Arkansas Death Penalty

The Arkansas Supreme Court granted an emergency stay Nov. 8 that halted the scheduled Nov. 9 execution of Jack Greene, a death row prisoner who is believed to be mentally ill. ABA President Hilarie Bass asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in an Oct. 25 letter to reconsider the death penalty for Greene, saying there is “ample evidence that he was mentally ill at the time he committed his crime and his mental state has deteriorated such that he is currently incompetent to be executed.” She pointed out that Greene exhibited signs of mental illness for over a decade before he committed the murder for which he has been sentenced to death. “While the ABA does not take a position for or against the death penalty per se, nor is Mr. Greene’s guilt in the tragic murder of Sidney Burnett in dispute, the ABA has significant concerns about whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment in his case in light of his severe mental illness,” she explained. Bass further urged the governor to consider how Greene’s psychotic disorder impacts his understanding of his sentence and “whether the use of the death penalty in this case will effectively further the goal of fair and proportional justice in Arkansas.” She said the ABA has a long-standing interest in promoting a fair and accurate criminal justice system and, for this reason, opposes the execution of individuals with severe mental illness present either at the time of their crime or at the time of their execution.

 

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