Georgia Inmate Scheduled to Die Despite Initial Finding of Intellectual Disabilities
Warren Hill (pictured) is scheduled to be executed on July 18 in Georgia despite being previously found intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virgnia (2002) banned the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation), but allowed each state to set guidelines for determining whether an inmate has such a condition. In Georgia, capital defendants are required to prove “mental retardation” beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the only state in the country that sets such a high burden of proof for such claims. Earlier, a state judge found that Hill was intellectually disabled, but under a lower legal threshhold than is required in the statute. In 2003, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the judge’s ruling in a 4-3 vote, holding that Hill’s lawyers had failed to clear the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the Georgia Supreme Court. Writing for the majority, Judge Frank Hull said federal law "mandates that this federal court leave the Georgia Supreme Court decision alone — even if we believe it incorrect or unwise." Brian Kammer, one of Hill’s lawyers, said he will ask the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Hill clemency. Kammer said, “Executing Warren Hill, a 52-year-old man whom a court has found to be more likely than not mentally retarded, would be a terrible miscarriage of justice.” UPDATE: On July 16, Georgia's Board of Pardons denied clemency. UPDATE: Georgia's Supreme Court stayed Hill's execution to review the state's lethal injection protocol. UPDATE 1/28/15: Warren Hill was executed on January 27, 2015.
Hill was sentenced to death for the murder of a fellow inmate in 1990.
(B. Rankin, "State sets execution for inmate judged mentally disabled," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 3, 2012. See Intellectual Disability and Arbitrariness. Listen to DPIC's podcast on Intellectual Disability. For more information, see Amnesty International's page.