Judges want more details about competency ruling
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.