Death Row Inmate's Mental Health Questioned

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Several mental health professionals have urged Arkansas to spare a death row inmate, asserting he is too delusional to understand his sentencing. Arkansas state lawyers have fired back that the inmate is feigning mental illness to avoid his impending execution.

On Aug. 25, Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the execution of 62-year-old Jack Greene for Nov. 9. Greene's federal defender, Scott Braden, asserted after the convicted murderer was mentally ill and was incapable of understanding his death sentence.

"Mr. Greene has long held 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," Braden said, according to NBC News.

"He complains that his spinal cord has been removed and his central nervous system has been destroyed," Greene added. "He believes he will be executed to cover up what he calls these 'crimes against humanity.'"

John Williams, another public defender for Greene, stated that the inmate'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."

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In 1991, Greene was arrested in North Carolina for torturing and killing retired pastor Sidney Burnett. Greene had beaten the 69-year-old victim with a can of hominy before mutilating him with a knife and finally shooting him twice. North Carolina sent Greene to Arkansas, where he was sentenced to death for the crime.

Arkansas Prison Director Wendy Kelley has deemed Greene competent to be lawfully executed and the inmate himself told the courts that he does not suffer from a mental illness.

Williams blasted Arkansas officials for relying on Kelley's opinion to execute Greene instead of consulting with mental health professionals.

"The system is really quite antiquated," Williams told The Associated Press. "Wendy Kelley is an arm of the state. She doesn't have the expertise to make that determination."

Williams added that Greene's own protestations about his competence were moot because, "A lot of people who are mentally ill don't think they're mentally ill."

On Oct. 4, Greene appeared before the Arkansas Parole Board with tissues stuffed into his nose and ears so deeply that his orifices were leaking blood. The inmate requested that he be transferred back to North Carolina to receive medical treatment "but if not, let's come on with this execution."

On Oct. 25, 28 mental health professionals signed onto a letter urging Hutchinson to grant Greene clemency.

"Mr. Greene's illness manifests itself in extreme physical contortions, in self-mutilation, and in delusional beliefs he holds about a conspiracy against him between his attorneys and prison officials," the letter stated.

The American Bar Association also submitted a letter to Hutchinson expressing concerns about Greene's execution, according to Arkansas Times.

"While the ABA does not take a position for or against the death penalty per se ... the ABA has significant concerns about whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment in his case in light of his severe mental illness," the ABA stated.

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Henry has contended that Greene is faking mental illness to be granted a transfer to North Carolina, where he would not be executed.

Hutchinson has not announced a final decision on whether to grant Greene clemency.

Sources: AP via NBC News, Arkansas TimesNBC News / Featured Image:  Michael Verhoef/Flickr / Embedded Images: AP via NBC News, Doug Smith/Wikimedia Commons

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