"Judge denies challenge to death penalty provision," is by Kate Brumback of the Associated Press, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
A judge has denied a Georgia death row inmate's latest challenge to a state requirement that defendants must prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be spared from execution.
Towaliga Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson wrote in an order dated Monday that he's procedurally barred from considering the challenge because a lawyer for Warren Lee Hill did not cite any new law or evidence to support his petition. Hill's lawyer had argued that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May bolsters his arguments against Georgia's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, the toughest in the nation.
The high court in 2002 barred execution of the intellectually disabled, but left the states to determine who is intellectually disabled.
The U.S. Supreme Court in May knocked down a Florida law that said any inmate who tests above 70 on an IQ test is not intellectually disabled and may be executed. The opinion said IQ tests have a margin of error and inmates whose scores fall within the margin must be allowed to present other evidence of intellectual disability.
In a court filing in August, Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Hill, said the high court's ruling also "highlights the error of the Georgia standard." Hill's lawyers have long argued Georgia's high standard for proving intellectual disability is problematic because psychiatric diagnoses are subject to a degree of uncertainty that is virtually impossible to overcome.
Hill's lawyers have long argued that Hill is intellectually disabled, but the state has consistently argued that Hill's defense has failed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
Brian Kammer, Director of the Georgia Resource Center and Warren Hill's attorney issued the following statement:
“Warren Hill is a man with documented, lifelong intellectual disability - a fact about him that has been confirmed by all seven doctors who have examined him, including three who previously testified in his case on behalf of the state. The fact that Mr. Hill has been unable to prove his intellectual disability, and ineligibility for the death penalty, is due to the flawed and unscientific standard required by the state of Georgia. Georgia’s standard, which requires defendants to prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt, is the strictest in the nation for proving intellectual disability and does not comport with prevailing scientific and medical standards. Mr. Hill should not be eligible for execution in a nation which does not execute persons with intellectual disability, and he would not be eligible for execution in any other jurisdiction in the nation.
“Judge Wilson, in his order, states: ‘In light of the severity of the penalty in this case, this Court hopes that, in reviewing [Mr. Hill’s] application to appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court will fully consider any potential application of Hall v. Florida to [his] case.’ Certainly Mr. Hill’s case warrants thorough review given the unanimous consensus that he is a person with lifelong intellectual disability.”
Creative Loafing Atlanta posts, "Judge dismisses Warren Hill appeal - and prods Georgia Supreme Court to review death penalty case," by John Ruch.
Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill has lost a court battle to be ruled “intellectually disabled” - and thus immune from execution - despite medical experts saying he is.
But Hill also gained an ally in the judge, Thomas Wilson of the Towaliga Judicial Circuit, whose Oct. 1 dismissal order included an unusual prodding for the Georgia Supreme Court to review the case.
Pointing to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Wilson expressed worry that Georgia law preventing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities is now unclear.
“The Court voices its concern as to whether there has been a change in the laws as they relate to the material issue involved in the case,” Wilson wrote. “There is no public outcry calling for change, but there exists the knowledge that this case involves the ultimate punishment and that the defendant is at the end of his legal avenues of appeal.”
ThinkProgress posts, "Even After Landmark Supreme Court Ruling, Georgia Court Won’t Reconsider Death Sentence," by Nicole Flatow.
Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court issued what was perhaps the most significant death penalty ruling in a decade when it rejected Florida’s standard for putting to death defendants who may be intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that capital punishment for the intellectually disabled is unconstitutional. But Florida was one of several states that was arguably doing it anyway, by making the standard for proving disability so onerous that almost no one could meet it.
While the Supreme Court only struck down Florida’s law, the ruling paved the way to challenge other state provisions that make it near-impossible to prove that a state is about to illegally put an intellectually disabled man to death, such as those in Georgia and Texas. But this week, a county judge rejected a legal challenge in Georgia, finding that death row inmate Warren Hill has “not cited any new law or evidence sufficient to overcome the procedural bar.”
Seven different mental health experts who have evaluated Hill all now agree that he has an intellectual disability (previously referred to by the courts as “mentally retarded.”). Hill also has an IQ score of 70. But all of that wasn’t enough to meet Georgia’s near-impossible standard of proving mental disability beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, Warren Hill remains on death row.
Earlier coverage of Warren Hill's case begins at the link.