The Georgia Supreme Court ruling in Hill v. Owens is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Court clears way for execution of killer," is Bill Rankin's report at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by a condemned inmate over a change in the state’s lethal-injection process, clearing the way for the man’s execution.
In a unanimous opinion, the court approved the Department of Corrections decision to replace a three-drug execution cocktail with one drug. The court found the agency’s change was not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires public hearing before any such change may be made.
On July 23, just two hours before Warren Hill was to be put to death, the state Supreme Court had halted the execution to give the court time to decide whether the Department of Corrections violated state law.
A week earlier, the agency had delayed Hill’s execution to give it time to switch from three lethal-injection drugs to one, pentobarbital. One of the drugs the state had been using in lethal injections —- the paralytic pancuronium bromide —- had expired two weeks before Hill’s initially scheduled execution, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Open Records Act.
The AP filing is, "Georgia Supreme Court rules against death row inmate in case involving execution method," via the Republic.
The Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled against a death row inmate who accused prison officials of violating state procedures by failing to hold a public notice hearing before changing the state's execution procedure.
In a ruling released Monday, the court ruled that the decision to replace a three-drug cocktail with one drug for executions is not subject to the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act, so it does not require public hearings before making the change.
With Monday's unanimous decision, the high court lifted the stay of execution it granted last July to Warren Lee Hill hours before he was to die by lethal injection for the 1990 killing of a prison inmate.
Hill's lawyers challenged the new execution protocol. They said the change was not preceded by a 30-day notice period as required by the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act -- meaning the new method is invalid.
State lawyers countered that the injection protocol is part of the Department of Corrections' standing operating procedures that can be changed by the department commissioner without additional steps.
The Albany Herald reports, "Justices' ruling lifts stay against condemned man."
Lawyers for Warren Lee Hill had challenged the Georgia Department of Correction's decision to abandon the three-drug cocktail previously used to execute inmates with one drug without going through a lengthy series of public hearings as required under the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act. In a unanimous opinion Monday, the justices ruled that the change in drugs is not subject to the act and lifted the stay of execution previously granted for Hill.
“Specifically, this case concerns who is legally authorized to select the drug or drugs to be used in executions in Georgia and how that choice may be made,” the opinion says. “However, this case could also affect the remaining myriad of management decisions made throughout Georgia’s prison system,” as it concerns “when those decisions must be made directly by the Board of Corrections in its policy-making role versus when they may be left to the statutorily-granted management prerogatives of the Commissioner of Corrections and the Department of Corrections that he manages.”
In today’s opinion, the high court has affirmed the lower court’s ruling and lifted Hill’s stay of execution, concluding that the Board of Corrections “is not specifically required by statute to make rules governing the particular subject of lethal injection procedures….” Under the Georgia Code, the board “shall adopt rules governing the assignment, housing, working, feeding, clothing, treatment, discipline, rehabilitation, training and hospitalization of all inmates coming under its custody.” Hill’s attorneys argued that under this duty to adopt rules governing the “treatment” administered to prison inmates, the board is required to adopt rules governing executions, and “rules” adopted by the board are subject to the Administrative Procedure Act. “We disagree for several reasons,” the high court says in its 21-page opinion. For one thing, the word “treatment” here does not carry the broader meaning of how inmates are handled overall, but rather refers more narrowly to their medical care. “Lethal injection may involve a drug or drugs that could be used in medical care; however, using a massive dose of a drug with the sole intention of causing immediate death cannot, we think, be reasonably described as medical care,” the opinion says.
The order Monday does not state when Hill may be executed.