ATLANTA (AP) — It's hard to pinpoint what led the Georgia pardons board to stay an execution set for this week, but documents released Wednesday show the secretive board came to the decision after appeals for clemency by prison workers, community members and the condemned man himself.
In the petition, Daniel Greene's attorneys said the 1991 murder of 20-year-old Bernard Walker was a "drug-crazed transgression" that marred Greene's otherwise exemplary life. He was set to die on Thursday for Walker's murder, but the Board of Pardons and Paroles stayed the execution for up to 90 days so it could review the case.
The petition includes impassioned letters from friends and neighbors in his Taylor County community who urged the board to spare his life. A counselor called him a "good spirited young man." A teacher said he was a "very gentle boy." And a former corrections officer called him "as fine a man as I have ever met in my life."
"He is not like anyone else on death row," wrote the officer, Randy Foster, who worked in the corrections department for 30 years. "Daniel Greene is the type of person you want for an inmate. He has never given me (or anyone else as far as I know) even the hint of a problem."
Greene, 42, offered his own plea for mercy. He said in a letter to the board that he was sorry for the pain and suffering he caused Walker's family, and that he owned up to his sins.
"I was on drugs at the time, but I took the drugs with my hands, and I take the responsibility. That choice to do drugs and what I did after were the worst mistakes of my life," he said in the letter. "I do not blame the drugs. I blame myself for everything."
Greene's crime spree began on Sept. 27, 1991, with several visits to a Taylor County convenience store, according to court records. On the last visit, he robbed clerk Virginia Wise and then stabbed her through the lung, but she survived.
Moments later, Walker entered the store and tried to stop the attack. Greene stabbed his former classmate through the heart before speeding away, leaving Walker to die in the store's parking lot. Greene then went on to attack an elderly couple in nearby Macon County and another store clerk in Warner Robins before he was arrested.
A standout defensive lineman in high school, Greene had to be tried in Clayton County because of all the media coverage in his hometown. He was convicted in December 1992 of murder, robbery and assault and was sentenced to death.
At the pardons board hearing on Tuesday, several of Greene's supporters spoke on his behalf, and many more sent in letters. Defense attorneys declined to comment, but in the petition said Greene lived a life of "complete non-violence" for all but five hours of his life.
"He has never denied his guilt and from the outset accepted responsibility for the crimes he committed," the petition said. "He is genuinely sorry for his actions and feels daily the pain he has caused" his victims.
The pardons board, which met behind closed doors, said in a statement that it could lift the stay at any time. But it said the delay would give it more time to examine the claims Greene's legal team offered at the hearing "and any additional information that becomes available."
Walker's sister declined comment when reached on Wednesday, but it's clear the pending execution has torn this close-knit middle Georgia community.
Taylor County Sheriff Jeff Watson, who went to high school with Greene and Walker, said he and a local reverend visited the condemned man Tuesday hours before his execution was delayed. The three men prayed, talked and said goodbye.
"Both families have lost so much," he said. "I just want to be there for both families."