HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas man convicted in the slaying of a 12-year-old girl is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening after a federal appeals court overturned a reprieve granted earlier this week.
Jonathan Green was sentenced to death in 2010 for the abduction, rape and strangling of Christina Neal, whose body was found at his home in June 2000. Neal’s family lived across a highway from Green in Dobbin, about 45 miles northwest of Houston.
Green’s attorneys argued that he was mentally incompetent for the death penalty, saying he suffered from hallucinations, and on Monday a federal district judge in Houston granted a reprieve.
But the Texas attorney general’s office persuaded the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling and lift the stay of execution late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before Green could be taken to the death chamber.
Green’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the lethal injection, which would be the 10th this year in Texas and the first of four scheduled for this month in the nation’s most active death penalty state.
The appeals court said it found the procedures at Green’s competency hearing were not improper, that no Supreme Court precedents were violated and that it was reasonable to find Green competent for the death penalty.
“We conclude that the state court applied the correct standard and the (federal) district court abused its discretion in finding otherwise,” the three-judge panel ruled.
Green’s lawyer, James Rytting, said his client hallucinated about the “ongoing spiritual warfare between two sets of voices representing good and evil.”
But Green told a psychiatrist who examined him before the hearing that he didn’t and couldn’t have killed Neal, that false evidence was used against him, and that he understood a murder conviction could result in him receiving an injection that would kill him.
Supreme Court guidance says mental illness can’t disqualify someone from execution if the person understands the sentence and reasons for the punishment, the state lawyers argued.
Green has declined to speak with reporters as his execution date neared.
Investigators questioned Green at least twice in the days following Neal’s disappearance 12 years ago. His wallet was found in some woods near clothing and jewelry that belonged to Neal, but authorities found nothing else of significance at the time. A few weeks later, a tip from a neighbor about an unusually large burn pile behind his ramshackle home brought them back.
While Green had been cooperative in the past, he grew testy and ordered authorities off his property when an FBI agent looking at the fire site detected the smell of a decaying body and inserted a metal probe into a patch of disturbed earth. They returned hours later with a search warrant and a dog trained to detect human remains.
The dog led officers to the girl’s body, stuffed inside a laundry bag in the home and wedged into a corner behind a piece of furniture. Green contended someone else had placed the body there and that he was being set up.
Evidence at his trial indicated he had tried to burn the body, buried it in a shallow grave, then removed it when detectives left to obtain the search warrant. DNA from her remains tied him to the slaying. A carpet fiber from her panties found in the woods was traced to a carpet in his home.
Two years ago, Green came within about four hours of execution before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the punishment amid similar arguments he was too delusional and too mentally ill to be put to death.
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