As teammates on the 1986 Montgomery High School Bears football team that went 10-1, fullback Brett Ligon often helped clear the path for tailback Jonathan Marcus Green’s 2,000 yards that earned him All-State honors.
Ligon, Montgomery County’s district attorney, now is working to clear a path to the execution of Green, who sits on Death Row for the June 21, 2000 rape and strangulation murder of 12-year-old Christina LeAnn Neal, of Dobbin.
It’s among Ligon’s duties to recommend the execution date for the county’s death row inmates once their appeals are exhausted.
Less than four hours before he was set to die by lethal injection on June 30, 2010, Green, a schizophrenic, was granted a stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals when questions were raised about his mental competence to be put to death.
The court has yet to rule on Green’s competency, but the fact Ligon and Green were teammates on one of Montgomery High School’s most successful football teams hasn’t deterred Ligon and his office from working to make sure Green is found competent for execution.
“The fact that it’s Jonathan doesn’t have any more impact on me than any other ones (execution dates) that I’ve set,” Ligon said. “The fact he (Green) was a star athlete at one time in no way mitigates the fact he raped and killed a girl from Dobbin.
“He should be held accountable for what he’s done.”
Green: All-State Senior
That District 22-3A championship in 1986 was the Bears’ first gridiron title in 17 years. There was title talk, but they made a fast exit from the state playoffs, losing 21-0 in the first round to Madisonville.
Among Green’s many highlights that season were the six touchdowns he racked up in the Bears’ 41-14 triumph over Shepherd. Not only was Ligon the Bears’ starting fullback, he was an all-county selection as a defensive end.
Ligon has been reluctant to discuss Green’s football exploits because he doesn’t want to “trivialize the horribleness” of Green’s crime, he said And when Green agreed to an interview with The Courier at the Polunsky Unit near Livingston, he, too, was reticent about his glory days on the gridiron.
“It can’t do anything to help me get released,” Green said. “It’s just something I did.”
But as their respective conversations lengthened, the topic trickled over to football – and their backfield teammates.
When asked of a singular moment during Green’s career, Ligon recalled a summary of achievements.
“When Jonathan made up his mind to run away from somebody, he could outrun them; and when he made up his mind to run over somebody, he did,” Ligon said.
Green’s determination was as notable off the field as it was on. After playing on the varsity as a freshman in 1983, Green sat out the next two seasons before rejoining the team for his senior campaign.
Ligon, who, along with Green, was the other freshman on that 1983 team, tried to talk Green into playing the next two seasons.
“A lot of people tried to talk him into playing,” Ligon said. “But he had made up his mind.”
Green had a change of heart before the 1986 season when he had the option of athletics, or spending that school period in Physical Education.
“He didn’t want to take P.E.,” Ligon said. “He spent so much time in the weight room in the off-season (head) Coach (Rod) Hess told him, ‘Jonathan, you might as well play football.’”
Green’s achievements were a result of impressive physical skills. His bench press was “off the charts,” Ligon said. At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, Green ran the 40 in 4.5 seconds.
“He looked like a piece of carved granite,” Ligon said. “He excelled at every athletic endeavor that he put his mind to.”
Different routes in life
But Green’s football career after high school didn’t last long. He said he spent one year at Cisco Junior College before being sidelined by a left shoulder injury.
Green believes the injury altered his life.
“You wouldn’t be talking to me right now. I’d been a superstar,” he said. “If I had motivated myself, I could’ve done a whole lot better.”
Motivation was never an issue for Ligon. Many of his former teammates at Montgomery were not surprised by the path Ligon followed that included a degree at Texas A&M and a career in law enforcement.
“Brett had a lot of leadership skills; you could see it,” said Jud Hess, Ligon’s teammate in 1984 and the son of then-head coach Rod Hess.
After college, Green said, he shifted through a variety of “odd jobs,” including construction and working as a cook.
It was in 1992 that Green said he crossed paths with Ligon for the one and only time since high school.
“I saw him at a store,” Green said. “He (Ligon) showed me that he had trimmed down, lost weight. In school, he wasn’t what I’d call fat, but he had more fat than he needed.”
Green labeled his backfield mate as a “good, physical football player.”
‘Two different dudes’
“We were two different dudes, but we got along,” Green said. “He didn’t treat guys (on the team) no better than anyone else.”
Returning to Montgomery County hasn’t always been idyllic for Ligon.
“I still run across people that I went to school with or people I worked with previously in the Sheriff’s Office who had been arrested,” he said. “Personally, I try to separate my feelings from what my job requires me to do.
“There are stores I don’t shop at anymore because I know I’m going to run into someone I went to school with.”
As experts determine if Green understands why he’s being executed, he said he’s not the smartest person on Earth, but, “I’m no dummy, either.”
Green also claims he hears voices in his head.
“They tell me lots of things. Some of them talk bad to me; some try to help me,” he said.
To this day, Green contends his innocence in Neal’s murder, and expects he’ll be granted another trial.
“He (Ligon) knows I’m not that kind of guy,” Green said.
But Ligon has a different opinion.
“The Jonathan Green I enjoyed in high school,” Ligon said, “is not the same one on Death Row.”