The taking of a human life is, without doubt, a most serious and grave matter. Coming from a Christian faith perspective, I would go so far as to say it is an eternal matter.
There is no doubt that Jack Greene has taken a life. In fact, to know the story is to be repulsed by his actions. Those who oppose his impending execution do not argue that point. Without showing mercy of his own, Jack Greene committed murder, and for that he must bear the consequences.
However, there are extenuating circumstances, enough so that I would caution those who are adamant that, when it comes to Mr. Greene, we must exercise "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." I would argue that, in this case, mercy is called for on the part of the state.
Jesus commanded his followers to consider "the least of these," including those who are in prison. At the very least, that is a call for us to help the helpless and give regard to those who do not have it in their ability to consider what is best for themselves. I believe Jack Greene falls within these ranks.
As a child, Mr. Greene endured physical abuse, the suicide of his father, and poverty to such an extent that his family once found living quarters in a chicken coop. At age 11, he was sent to a boys' school in North Carolina known for its violent environment and abuse toward its students. In truth, he was raped while living there.
By anyone's standards, that is the recipe for a growing mental illness, a malady that was already present and lurking in his family history. Eventually, he was overtaken by mental disorders, and that contributed to his terrible crime.
During his incarceration in Arkansas, he has been beset with delusions, believing that authorities are torturing him while denying him the medications he needs to deal with his many and various illnesses. He has been found to cram wadded-up toilet paper into his ears and nose until his face bleeds. He almost continually contorts his body and frequently stands on his head in order to alleviate imaginary pain. He writes dozens of incoherent letters to state and federal agencies about what he considers to be a conspiracy against him. He eats from a sink.
Mr. Greene has been assessed by mental health experts. Their findings? He has a psychotic disorder that is getting worse as time passes, and doesn't understand his situation.
Interestingly, the state of Arkansas has not held a hearing on Mr. Greene's mental state, yet he has been scheduled to die Thursday by means of lethal injection. It is my contention that such an action is not only unconscionable, but unconstitutional without a proper hearing on his mental competence (or lack thereof).
That is also the finding of the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's highest court has stated that persons whose mental illness is so severe that they lack a rational understanding of their penalty should not be subjected to capital punishment.
To ask for mercy in regard to Jack Greene does not mean there is no empathy for his victims and their family. My heart goes out to them. Nor do we suggest that his crime should go unpunished. It is to say that now is the time for us to do justice where and when it is called for.
Life in prison without the possibility of parole is the more just outcome.
Occasionally, every community faces a watershed moment when courage is called for to do the right thing. This is such a time for this community we call home, the state of Arkansas. Remember, the taking of a human life, regardless of the circumstances, is a most serious and grave matter.
I call upon Governor Hutchinson to find it in his heart to do the right and just thing, and not execute Jack Greene.
Rev. Dr. Randy L. Hyde lives in Little Rock.
Editorial on 11/06/2017
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