That's the title of an editorial published in today's New York Times on the Georgia case of Warren Hill.
Warren Lee Hill Jr., with an I.Q. of 70, is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday in Georgia. The Supreme Court should stay the execution, as his lawyers have requested, and recognize that Georgia makes it too hard for an offender to prove retardation.
In 2002, the justices banned capital punishment for the mentally retarded, but a question remains over how states handle such cases. Georgia is the only state in the country that requires a defendant to prove retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.
That is far too heavy a burden of proof because it is too easy to cast doubt on evidence concerning mental capacity.
Mr. Hill has proved his retardation in state trial court twice by the more sensible “preponderance of the evidence” standard. But the Georgia Supreme Court said Mr. Hill needed to meet the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard set by state statute.
When the Supreme Court directed the states to bar executions for the retarded, it left them “the task of developing appropriate ways” to make a determination about retardation. But the justices could not have intended states to impose, as Georgia has, a standard of proof that is nearly impossible to meet.
Georgia Public Broadcasting posts the AP report, "Hill Requests Execution Stay."
A lawyer for a Georgia inmate set to be executed next week has filed a U.S. Supreme Court motion requesting a stay of execution.
Attorneys for Warren Lee Hill, filed the motion Wednesday. Hill is set to be executed Feb. 19.
Hill's attorneys have argued their client should be spared from the death chamber because he is mentally disabled, a claim the Georgia Supreme Court has rejected. Georgia law requires defendants to prove their mental disability beyond a reasonable doubt — which Hill's attorneys say is impossible to do.
"Execution Scheduled For Next Week To Put Georgia Back On Trial," is the Peach Pundit blog post and column in the Dublin Courier Herald.
But beneath the headlines that we are sure to hear (and that frankly are more valid than the specious claims raised in the McPhail case), there is another matter that makes this execution problematic. The relatives of the victim do not want this execution to proceed.
This is not a late recantation as was alleged the case in the McPhail case. Rather, the family of Mr. Handspike says they were not even given notice of the trial – much less allowed to testify in the sentencing phase.
It is commonplace for the family of victims to give impact statements during sentencing. Much of this time the testimony is given to ensure that a harsh punishment is handed down, though occasionally there is a request for leniency. The family of Joseph Handspike wasn’t given the courtesy of attending, much less to have their wishes considered.
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins with Andrew Cohen's commentary.
As I often point out, mental retardation is now generally referred to as a developmental or intellectual disability. Because it has a specific meaning with respect to capital cases, I continue to use the older term.