Judges want more de­tails about com­pe­tency rul­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By Michael Graczyk

Court asks for de­tails on past mental com­pe­tency rul­ings

HUNTSVILLE — The ex­e­cu­tion of con­demned mur­derer Jonathan Green was halted Wed­nes­day when the Texas Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals agreed to look more closely at ar­gu­ments that he was delu­sional and too men­tally ill to be put to death.

The or­der from the state’s high­est crim­i­nal ap­peals court came less than four hours be­fore Green, 42, could have re­ceived lethal in­jec­tion for the ab­duc­tion, rape and stran­gling of a 12-year-old girl near Hous­ton 10 years ago.

Green al­ready had been taken to the death house in Huntsville when he re­ceived word of the re­prieve.

“I don’t know how I feel,” he told Texas Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice spokesman Ja­son Clark. “I feel pretty empty. I get to stay alive a lit­tle longer.”

A Mont­gomery County jury sent Green to death row for the June 2000 slay­ing of Christina LeAnn Neal, who lived across the road from Green in Dob­bin, about 50 miles north­west of Hous­ton. She’d been re­ported missing af­ter not re­turn­ing home from a friend’s house nearby.

Green was ar­rested when po­lice ca­daver dogs led au­thor­i­ties to the girl’s body in his ramshackle home.

Green’s lawyers were in the courts as his ex­e­cu­tion neared, con­tend­ing that his delu­sions and mental ill­ness made him in­el­i­gi­ble for ex­e­cu­tion and that he was en­ti­tled to a com­pe­tency hear­ing.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that mental ill­ness does not dis­qual­ify some­one from ex­e­cu­tion as long as the pris­oner un­der­stands the pun­ish­ment he is fac­ing and why he is be­ing pun­ished.

When Green’s ap­peal was turned down ear­lier this week by state District Court Judge Lisa Michalk, his trial court judge in Mont­gomery County, his lawyers took their ap­peal to the Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals in Austin. The ap­pel­late court, in halt­ing the pun­ish­ment, said it “needs more in­for­ma­tion” about how Michalk ar­rived at her de­ci­sion about Green’s com­pe­tency be­cause some stan­dards men­tioned in the record of her de­ci­sion “are not ap­pli­ca­ble in this in­stance.”

The ap­peals court gave Michalk 15 days to file a writ­ten clar­i­fi­ca­tion of her de­ci­sion in Green’s com­pe­tency mo­tion. The court also or­dered Green’s attorneys and pros­e­cu­tors to sub­mit writ­ten ar­gu­ments dis­cussing whether claims of com­pe­tency legally can be raised un­der state law.

Green first came to the at­ten­tion of po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing the girl’s dis­ap­pear­ance when his wal­let was found in some woods near cloth­ing and jew­elry that be­longed to her.

A month later, a neigh­bor re­ported an un­usu­ally large trash fire at Green’s ru­ral home, where he lived alone. Po­lice ar­rived to find what they thought was a shal­low grave, and Green or­dered them off his prop­erty. When in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­turned with a war­rant, a po­lice ca­daver dog pulled de­tec­tives in­side the house where Christina’s re­mains were found wrapped in a blan­ket and stuffed into a laun­dry bag that was wedged into a corner be­hind fur­ni­ture. Pros­e­cu­tors said ev­i­dence showed Green had tried to burn the girl’s body. DNA re­cov­ered from her re­mains con­nected Green to her slay­ing.

Jonathan Green

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