The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruling in In Re: Hill is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Court denies Hill’s bid to halt execution," is Bill Rankin's report for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The federal appeals court in Atlanta has denied Warren Hill’s bid to halt his execution on grounds he is mentally retarded.
By a 2-1 vote, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Hill’s claim challenged only his eligibility for a death sentence and not whether he is guilty of murder. For this reason, Hill cannot clear the narrow “actual innocence” exception that allows capital inmates to raise new claims after prior appeals had been exhausted, Judge Frank Hull wrote.
Judge Rosemary Barkett issued a stinging dissent.
“There is no question that Georgia will be executing a mentally retarded man because all seven mental health experts who have ever evaluated Hill, both the state’s and Hill’s, now unanimously agree that he is mentally retarded.”
"Federal appeals court lifts stay of execution for Ga. man, clears way for new execution date," is the AP report, via the Republic.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in at the last minute to temporarily block Warren Lee Hill's execution in February. The court said it wanted to consider Hill's arguments that a federal court should reconsider his case.
In an opinion published Monday, the 11th Circuit says Hill's claim of mental disability was presented in an earlier petition and can't be presented again. The circuit judges also say Hill's claim only challenges his eligibility for the death sentence, not his underlying guilt, making him ineligible for reconsideration.
Hill's lawyers asked for reconsideration based on new doctor statements regarding his mental disability.
Warren Hill's attorney, Brian Kammer, has just issued the statement, "in Response to Eleventh Circuit Denial." Here's the full text:
“We are deeply disappointed that the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals found that procedural barriers prevent them from considering the compelling new evidence in Warren Hill’s case. The new evidence shows that every mental health expert ever to examine him finds that Mr. Hill has mental retardation and is thus ineligible for execution according to the constitution of the United States.
We came before this court with important new evidence – that three doctors who previously testified on behalf of the state, upon further review of Mr. Hill’s complete records, now conclude that he has mental retardation. The diagnosis of mental retardation is now unanimous among all the doctors who have examined Mr. Hill.
As Judge Barkett notes in her dissent: "The idea that courts are not permitted to acknowledge that a mistake has been made which would bar an execution is quite incredible for a country that not only prides itself on having the quintessential system of justice but attempts to export it to the world as a model of fairness.... [The federal habeas statute] should not be construed to require the unconstitutional execution of a mentally retarded offender who, by presenting evidence that virtually guarantees that he can establish his mental retardation, is able to satisfy even the preposterous burden of proof Georgia demands.""
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins at the link.
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.