That's the title of an editorial in today's New York Times.
Justice Harry Blackmun surely would have confronted the case of Warren Lee Hill Jr. — whom the state of Georgia plans to execute Monday evening — by recalling perhaps his most famous dissent. “From this day forward,” he wrote in a 1994 Supreme Court case, “I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.”
Four experts testified that Mr. Hill met the generally accepted criteria for mild mental retardation. Three others said he did not for various reasons, one being that he had served in the Navy. Georgia, alone among the states, requires that mental retardation be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the strictest standard in our justice system. The federal courts in Georgia ruled that Mr. Hill had not met this standard.
But, in the past year, the three state experts all voluntarily recanted their testimony. It didn’t matter: the wheels of the machinery of death in Georgia keep turning, greased by a breathtakingly strict federal law meant to prevent prisoners from filing multiple appeals, even if those appeals contain crucial new evidence. Under this law, every avenue to Mr. Hill is now blocked save one: a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, which his lawyers filed this week.
In 2002, the court ruled that mentally retarded people may not be executed. All seven experts who have examined Mr. Hill now agree he is mentally retarded. If that doesn’t count as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it is hard to imagine what would.
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins at the link. Next, Georgia's scramble for a lethal injection drug.