Arkansas Supreme Court blocks 'delusional' killer's execution

Nov 7 (Reuters) - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the planned execution this week of a convicted killer who his lawyers argued is severely mentally ill and should not be put to death.

Justices granted an emergency stay for Thursday's execution of Jack Greene, 62, convicted in 1991 of the death of Sidney Burnett. The court release its decision without comment.

Prosecutors said Greene inflicted a "macabre horror" on the 69-year-old retired minister, by beating him with a can of hominy, cutting him from mouth to ear and then shooting him twice.

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Anne MacPhail pauses for a moment after learning at 10:55 p.m., on September 21, 2011, that the U.S. Supreme Court had denied a stay of execution for Troy Davis, who was convicted in the 1989 murder of her son Mark MacPhail. Davis was executed shortly after in Jackson, Georgia. (Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/MCT via Getty Images)

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Greene's public defenders sought the stay to allow the state Supreme Court more time to review a lower court's decision to uphold an Arkansas law giving prison authorities the ability to determine a prisoner's mental competence. Defense attorneys argued Greene was delusional and had brain damage.

"The U.S Constitution prohibits the execution of prisoners with mental illness so severe that they lack a rational understanding of the punishment, yet Arkansas law gives the Department of Correction director sole discretion over such proceedings, denying the prisoners' due process rights," Scott Braden, Greene's attorney, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Greene's attorneys said the stay would allow the inmate to seek a fair competency hearing with a neutral decision maker.

A spokesman for Arkansas Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge could not be reached on Tuesday, but the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Rutledge would not appeal the decision.

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Rutledge, representing Wendy Kelley, director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, previously argued the state law had been upheld and the execution should go forward.

The state's response included a transcript from an October clemency hearing in which Greene, who is from North Carolina, said he accepted responsibility for murdering Burnett.

The execution was set to be the state's first since it executed four men in April over eight days.

Arkansas had initially planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days in April, the most of any state in so short a period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, because its supply of the drug used in its lethal injection mix was set to expire. Four of those executions were halted by various courts.

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Inmate Marcel Williams is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Williams is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 24, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
Inmate Jack Jones is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Jones is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 24, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
Inmate Kenneth Williams is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Williams is scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, April 27, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
Inmate Bruce Ward is shown in this booking photo provided March 25, 2017. Ward is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 17, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
Inmate Ledell Lee is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Lee s scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, April 20, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
Inmate Stacey Johnson is shown in this booking photo provided March 25, 2017. Johnson is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 20, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
Inmate Don Davis is shown in this booking photo provided March 25, 2017. Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 17, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
Inmate Jason Mcgehee is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Mcgehee is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas, April 27, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS 
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Arkansas got a new supply of its lethal injection drugs for Greene's execution.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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