Today's USA Today publishes commentary by Martin Clancy, "Supreme Court vs. Warren Lee Hill." Clancy is the co-author of Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases.
This morning, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will gather in their secluded conference room to outline the court's fall term. One task before them involves a legal Gordian knot, a clash of institutional good intentions. At stake is a man's life.
The justices will decide whether to accept the case of Warren Lee Hill, a condemned Georgia inmate who has exhausted appeals to spare him from execution on the grounds of his mental capacity. After two trials, there's no doubt he is a killer. There's also no doubt he is intellectually disabled and should be protected from execution by a 2002 Supreme Court ruling.
Unless the Supreme Court acts, Hill may die because federal courts are trying to do a better job. They have tightened appeals access, severely limiting the admission of evidence and claims, in an attempt to weed out frivolous cases. The rules have had undeniably beneficial effects on court caseloads, but unintended and grave consequences in the Hill case.