Georgia stays execution of mentally disabled prisoner Update

Update July 13, 2013
Georgia officials reschedule Hill execution for Friday
ATLANTA (AP) – State officials have rescheduled the execution of Georgia death row inmate Warren Lee Hill for Friday.

Hill was originally scheduled to be executed on Monday, but a Fulton County judge issued a temporary stay so she could consider a legal challenge filed by Hill’s attorneys. Hill is challenging a new state law prohibiting the release of certain information related to Georgia’s supply of lethal injection drugs.

A hearing on that issue has been scheduled for Thursday morning.

Separately, Hill’s attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing Hill is mentally disabled and should not be put to death.

Attorneys for the state say Hill has failed to prove he’s mentally disabled and that his case has been thoroughly reviewed by the courts.

(Source: The Associated Press)


A mentally ill prisoner who was scheduled for execution in Georgia on Monday has been granted a stay of execution by a judge.

Major questions were raised over the execution, which appeared to be in stark contrast with the Eighth Amendment.

Warren Lee Hill, a 53-year-old man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and beating a fellow inmate to death in 1990, has been facing execution for the past 12 months. He was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection last July and again in February, but was spared by last-minute court orders.

Hill has been classified as “mentally retarded” by all nine government and state doctors who examined him, and the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia bars the execution of mentally ill inmates. According to one state expert, Hill has an IQ under 70, classifying him as ‘challenged,’ at best.

Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan held a 90-minute hearing Monday, hearing challenges from Hill’s attorneys regarding the constitutionality of a new state law that hides from public view the manufacturer of the drug used in lethal injections and the physicians who prescribe it.

Small local pharmacies provide the drugs for lethal injections in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal constitution, because European drug companies refuse to let their drugs to be used in executions.

A second meeting to continue the discussion was scheduled for Thursday.

Hill was previously scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7pm local time (14:00 GMT) Monday.

Three of nine doctors classified him as competent 13 years ago, but in February redacted their statements and described him as mentally ill. One doctor called his earlier evaluation “extremely and unusually rushed” and another said his conclusions were “unreliable because of my lack of experience at the time,” Reuters reports.

The Supreme Court decision states that executing those with a cognitive impairment is a “cruel and unusual” punishment, which violates the Eighth Amendment.

Defense Attorney Brian Kammer last week filed a Supreme Court motion for a stay of execution. Hill’s lawyer also filed a second legal challenge with the Georgia state courts concerning new drug secrecy laws.

Georgia recently passed the controversial Lethal Injection Secrecy Law, which allows the state’s Department of Corrections to secretly obtain the sedative pentobarbital, which is used in executions. As a result of the law, the state can bypass the Freedom of Information Act and consider information about the drug suppliers a “state secret.”

In a motion filed with the state, Kammer argues that the uncertainty about the sedatives’ origins means that his client has “no means for determining whether the drugs for his lethal injection are safe and will reliably perform their function, or if they are tainted, counterfeited, expired or compromised in some other way.”

The motion was filed to challenge “the constitutionality of [the secrecy law] and clarify the rights of Mr. Hill to obtain information about the origins and manufacture of the drug with which he will be executed – and by extension – its safety an likely efficacy.”

To defend itself against the federal court, the state is arguing that all nine doctors who diagnosed Hill as mentally ill were flawed in their analyses and failed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt under state standards – and that the three who redacted their classifications did so too late.

“Hill has not met his burden of proving retardation under an onerous state standard; that the doctors’ new diagnoses are flawed; and that, as a matter of law, they come too late anyway to spare Hill,” writes The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen.

Civil rights groups have spoken out against the Georgia court system, and the non-profit group All About Developmental Disabilities has called on the state to lower its standard for proving mental disability. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, has published a statement declaring the inmate’s scheduled execution unconstitutional.

“The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law,” he writes.

“Executing this indisputably intellectually disabled man would not only violate our Constitution, but it would be cruel and unjust beyond reason.”

Hill’s death would have marked the 19th execution in the United States this year. (RT News)

stay of executions january-august 2013

Stays of Execution 2013



Date of  Scheduled Execution  State  Inmate Reason for Stay
8 PA Mark Spotz Stayed to allow time for appeals.
16 OH Ronald Post Commuted to a sentence of life without parole.
29 TX Kimberly McCarthy Stayed until 4/SR3/2013 after attorneys raised claims of racial bias.
13 LA Christopher Sepulvado Stayed due to issues with lethal injection protocol in the state of Louisiana.
19 GA Warren Hill Stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to examine the issue of Hill’s mental retardation.
20 TX Britt Ripkowski Stayed by a district court which found the defendant legally incompetent.
21 GA Andrew Cook Stayed on lethal injection grounds by the Georgia Court of Appeals.  Update – Stay was lifted and Cook was executed as scheduled.
26 FL Augustus Howell Stayed to allow time for appeals.
27 TX Larry Swearingen Stayed to allow time for DNA testing.
5 PA Freeman May Stayed to allow time for appeals.
6 PA Orlando Maisonet Stayed to allow time for appeals.
6 AZ Edward Schad Stayed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow time for appeals.
7 PA Abraham Sanchez Stayed to allow time for appeals.
21 TX Michael Gonzales Stayed to allow time for appeals.
3 TX Kimberly McCarthy Stayed due to proposed legislation that would address racial discrimination in the death penalty.
10 TX Rigoberto Avila Stayed by 41st District Judge Anna Perez who ruled additional time is necessary to allow Avila’s defense attorneys to explore possible new evidence of Avila’s innocence.
21 PA Borgela Philistin Stayed to allow time for appeals.
24 TX Elroy Chester Stayed to allow time to clarify legal issues.
25 PA Michael Travaglia Stayed to allow time for appeals.
7 MS Willie Manning Stayed by Mississippi Supreme Court to allow further review of the case.
21 TX Robert Pruett 60-day stay to allow for DNA testing.
18-24 CO Nathan Dunlap Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order granting a temporary reprieve.


“Volunteer” refers to inmates who have voluntarily waived their normal appeals (not necessarily that they have volunteered for execution).