Georgia Judge Would Allow Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man, But Calls for Higher Court Review
A county judge in Georgia denied relief for Warren Hill, a death row inmate whose diagnosed intellectual disabilities have failed to meet the state's narrow standard for exemption from the death penalty. However, the judge encouraged the state Supreme Court to consider whether a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Hall v. Florida, should require Georgia to modify its standard. Chief Judge Thomas Wilson of Butts County said, "In light of the severity of the penalty in this case, this Court hopes that, in reviewing [Mr. Hill’s] application to appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court will fully consider any potential application of Hall v. Florida to [his] case." In Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court directed Florida to broaden its interpretation of intellectual disability. Florida refused to spare an inmate whose IQ was just one point above their cutoff. Similarly, Georgia has the narrowest standard of proof for intellectual disability in the entire country, requiring defendants to prove their disability beyond a reasonable doubt. Brian Kammer, an attorney for Hill, said,"Mr. Hill should not be eligible for execution in a nation which does not execute persons with intellectual disability, and he would not be eligible for execution in any other jurisdiction in the nation."
The victim's family in Hill's case has also said that they do not support his execution. Several jurors from his trial have said that they would have recommended a sentence of life without parole if it had been an option at the time. National and state organizations focusing on intellectual disabilities have supported Hill's claim. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter have called for a commutation of Mr. Hill's death sentence to life without parole. Additionally, the American Bar Association, the ACLU, and the Council of Europe have all called for sparing Hill's life.
(Hill v. Chatman, Order, September 29, 2014; E. Jacobson (Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities), "The Supreme Court Must Stop the Execution of Warren Hill," Huffington Post, February 11, 2013). See Intellectual Disability and Supreme Court.