"Georgia death row inmate seeks execution delay," is the latest AP report on Warren Hill's case. It's filed by Kate Brumback, via the Marietta Daily Journal.
Lawyers for a Georgia inmate scheduled to be executed next week said Monday they have filed papers asking a federal appeals court for a delay until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.
Last week, the state scheduled Warren Lee Hill’s execution for July 15. But his lawyers, who have long claimed Hill is mentally disabled and therefore shouldn’t be executed, had asked the Supreme Court in May to review his case in light of new evidence they submitted.
The state’s supply of the execution drug pentobarbital expired in March, and the drug has become increasingly difficult for states to get since the manufacturer has said it doesn’t want the drug used in executions. A Department of Corrections spokesman said in an email that the state does not currently have any execution drugs, but he has previously said the state expects to get some of the drug by the scheduled execution date.
Andrew Cohen posts, "Will the Supreme Court Make an 11th-Hour Intervention in Georgia?" at the Atlantic. Here's the beginning:
Unfolding in Atlanta and Washington this week is a compelling story about mental health, the Supreme Court, and capital punishment that illustrates vividly the width of the gulf that exists in America today between the rule of law that people think they have and the rule of law they actually do have. It is yet another story of how recognized rights can be hollowed out over time by judges and politicians and bureaucratic functionaries who extol the virtues of lofty constitutional principles with one breath and then work to undermine those principles with the next. It's a story about the perils of judicial compromise.
At the center of the week's storm is a convicted murderer named Warren Lee Hill. Despite a 2002 ruling by the United States Supreme Court that prohibits the execution of mentally retarded* prisoners, Georgia officials plan to execute Hill next Monday even though all of the government doctors who have examined him now agree that he is mentally retarded beyond a reasonable doubt. Georgia seeks to accomplish the execution by arguing that 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.
Because his case directly challenges the Supreme Court's prohibition against executing the mentally retarded, because it's (so far) such a great example of how easy it is for lower courts to ignore the spirit of High Court commands, I have written many times before (here, here and here) about Hill. His execution was 30 minutes away in February when it was halted by the 11th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in order to evaluate the evolution of his doctors' views on his mental condition.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, "Condemned killer ask court to halt execution."
Hill’s capital punishment case has attracted international attention because three state experts who previously testified that Hill was faking his mental disabilities have come forward over the past year to say they were mistaken. The doctors — two psychiatrists and a psychologist — described their evaluations of Hill more than a decade ago as rush jobs. They said an improved understanding of mental disabilities led them to believe Hill is mildly mentally retarded.
Think Progress posts, "Why Georgia Gets To Thumb Its Nose At The Constitution’s Ban On Executing The ‘Mentally Retarded’," by Ian Millhiser.
More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court held that “death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal.” Yet, despite this decision, the state of Georgia will execute a “mentally retarded criminal” next week unless the Supreme Court intervenes.
Seven mental health professionals have evaluated Warren Lee Hill, a Georgia inmate scheduled to be executed next Monday, and all seven have determined that Hill is intellectually disabled, the clinical term for the disability that was known as “mental retardation” at the time Atkins was decided. Yet, thanks to several legal loopholes that effectively cut Hill off from the Constitution, it is likely that his execution will proceed.
Although Atkins held that executing the intellectually disabled is unconstitutional, it also left “to the State[s] the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon [their] execution of sentences.” Georgia took this license and ran with it, requiring inmates such as Hill to overcome a virtually impossible burden of proof before a court will deem them to be intellectually disabled. The state, in effect, exempts itself from the Constitution’s ban on executing men such as Hill.
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins at the link.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 on the website.