Victim's Family, Defense Battle Over Clemency For Death Row Inmate

Oct 4, 2017

Linda Miller, daughter of murder victim Sidney Burnett, addresses the Arkansas Parole Board
Credit Matt Mershon / KATV

As the Nov. 9 execution date for convicted killer Jack Greene draws near, the Arkansas Parole Board is considering whether to recommend the governor grant him clemency.

Jack Gordon Greene was convicted in 1992 of murdering pastor Sidney Burnett at his home near Clarksville. Greene bound, stabbed, and beat Burnett to death just three days after murdering his own brother, Tommy, in North Carolina.

Since Greene’s conviction, a number of issues surrounding his status on death row have come up. Now, the defense’s argument has shifted to question whether Greene is mentally fit to be executed. As psychiatrist George Woods said in a video submitted to the board, years spent in isolation in prison have exacerbated his condition.

“Certainly Jack’s social history reflects someone that has a lifelong problem with issues of trauma et cetera. But the delusions that we see now, the psychosis that we see, appeared to have started in approximately 2003,” Woods said. “When I saw him again today, September 14, he again had dried blood on his face, on the left side of his face. So he really presented as a very psychotic, very mentally ill, disturbed man.”

Members of the Arkansas Parole Board hear testimonials from relatives of Jack Gordon Greene's victim Sidney Burnett.
Credit Matt Mershon / KATV

In the video, friends and former lawyers argue Greene was traumatized at an early age from his parents’ suicides as well as abuse he suffered at a reform school. However, in a hearing Wednesday afternoon before the parole board, the family of Greene’s victim said clemency shouldn’t be granted. Linda Miller traveled from Michigan to make the case for her father’s killer to be executed.

“I’m 69 years old, my dad was 69 years old. I hope to have 10, 20, or 30 more years to celebrate the graduations of my grandchildren,” Miller said. “I want to go to their weddings someday. I want to hold their babies someday. I want to be a part of my children and grandchildren’s lives. I want to celebrate what was stolen from my dad.”   

Miller likened her father’s murder to the mass shooting in Las Vegas that claimed 59 lives.

"I feel their pain. I know that they are asking the same question that I have asked over and over and over, and I still ask. Why? Why? Why? There’s no good, sound reason for it,” Miller said. “What kind of a human being can be this mean?”

The director of the Department of Correction has the sole discretion to determine a death row inmate’s mental competency in Arkansas. Greene’s attorneys say this violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings granting fair hearings to inmates whose mental status is questionable.

The parole board has 72 hours from the time of the hearing to deliberate on whether to recommend Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant Greene clemency.