Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, "Execution of ‘mentally retarded’ Warren Hill still set for Tuesday." It's written by Rhonda Cook.
With his execution set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, twice convicted murderer Warren Hill awaits word from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles on his second request for a reprieve even as public opinion from around the world is galvanizing in his favor after the experts who said he was mentally fit for execution have reversed their opinions.
“The board has received the petition from the representatives of Warren Hill and the matter is under review,” according to a statement from the Parole Board issued late Monday afternoon.
The board, most likely the only chance Hill has of avoiding lethal injection, is planning to spend much of Tuesday focusing on another execution planned for later in the week. Advocates for convicted murderer Andrew Cook and for his victims have appointments to meet with the Parole Board Tuesday morning.
All the while, worldwide media coverage has focused on Hill’s claims that he is mentally retarded, the phrase used in court filings, and it would be unconstitutional to execute him.
Several years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned executing the mentally retarded but left it to each state to set the standards for finding someone intellectually deficient. Georgia’s burden of proof is high — “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“The prospect of executing an intellectually disabled person is shocking to the conscience,” said Sara Totonchi of the Southern Center for Human Rights. “So it is not at all surprising that Mr. Hill’s case has once again generated a global response to Georgia’s horrific death penalty system.”
"Judge won't reconsider case of Georgia death row inmate," is the latest AP report, via the Athens Banner-Herald.
A state court judge on Monday declined to reconsider the case of a Georgia death row inmate set for execution this week.
Judge Thomas Wilson on Monday declined to consider a request for habeas relief for Warren Lee Hill, who's to be executed Tuesday. Hill's lawyer Brian Kammer on Friday had asked the judge to reconsider the case in light of new evidence.
Kammer has long argued that Hill is mentally disabled and therefore should not be put to death because the execution of mentally disabled offenders is prohibited by state law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The state has consistently argued that Hill's defense has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is mentally disabled. Hill's lawyers have said that burden of proof is virtually impossible to meet. But Georgia's strictest-in-the-nation standard for proving mental disability has repeatedly been upheld by state and federal courts.
In his filings Friday, Kammer included sworn statements from the three doctors who examined Hill in 2000 and testified before the court that he was not mentally disabled. The doctors write in their new statements that they were rushed in their evaluation at the time and that they have acquired additional experience and there have been scientific developments in the intervening 12 years. All three reviewed facts and documents in the case and write that they now believe that Hill is mentally disabled.
CNN posts, "Georgia prisoner facing execution Tuesday," by Matt Smith.
Hill's lawyers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing that his IQ of 70 means he should be spared under the 2002 decision that barred the execution of the mentally retarded. But a string of state courts has said Hill doesn't qualify under Georgia law, which requires inmates to prove mental impairment "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Georgia is the only state with the reasonable-doubt standard, which Hill's lawyers call "a virtually insurmountable barrier" that flies in the face of the justices' 2002 decision.
"The U.S. Supreme Court says we don't put mentally retarded people to death, but we'll let the states determine who's retarded and who's not," CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said Monday.
Handspike's family has called for the execution to be called off, as have former classmates and school officials. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities has weighed in against the execution, stating, "No other state risks the lives of those with developmental disabilities to this extreme."
Three doctors who examined Hill for the state "have now revised their opinions and find that Mr. Hill does meet the criteria for mental retardation," his lawyers argued in court papers.
"High Bar To Avoid Ga. Execution," by Joshua Stewart at Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Georgia and federal law prohibit executing “mentally retarded” defendants, and the case is highlighting Georgia’s strictest-in-the-nation standard for proving that.
State law requires mental disability is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” – the highest bar to clear in the law. Georgia’s the only state with such a standard. Also unusual in Georgia’s law: jurors make the decision at the same time they decide guilt or innocence.
That complicates trial, said Russell Gabriel, a law professor at the University of Georgia and director of the school’s Criminal Defense Clinic.
“Because the definition of mental retardation includes not just an IQ score but also how the person was adapting to everyday life before the age of 18, it means this incredible range of events when they were a child is suddenly pulled into the regular part of the trial,” Gabriel said.
He said many states decide before the main trial if someone is mentally retarded. He also said Georgia’s tough standard is even tougher when you factor in human nature: a capital-murder-case jury probably won’t decide a defendant is mentally disabled.
Additional coverage includes:
"Georgia Set to Execute Man with IQ of 70 Today," by Tim Murphy at Mother Jones.
"Georgia Prepares to Execute Mentally Disabled Man," at Democracy Now.
"Georgia Is Scheduled To Execute An Intellectually Disabled Man Today," by Ian Millhiser for Think Progress.
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins at the link.