Georgia court declines to halt execution of mentally disabled death row inmate

[JURIST] The Butts County Superior Court on Thursday denied requests to halt the execution of Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill. Hill was convicted of two counts of murder but argues he should not be executed because he is mentally disabled [AP report]. Georgia is the only state in the US that requires proof of mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than a preponderance of the evidence. The court noted that Hill has proven an IQ of 70 beyond a reasonable doubt, and further stated that he meets the overall criteria for being mentally disabled by a preponderance of the evidence. However the court found that Hill failed to prove overall that he is mentally disabled beyond a reasonable doubt. Hill was sentenced to death after being convicted for the killing of his cellmate while Hill was serving a life sentence at Lee State Prison in Lee County. After the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Hill's petition for clemency [JURIST report] on Monday the Georgia Department of Corrections delayed his execution for several days in order to make changes to its lethal injection protocol. Hill is now scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday night at the state prison at Jackson.

UN Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions Christof Heyns [official website] on Tuesday urged the US not to execute [JURIST report] Hill. The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion; Cornell LII backgrounder] that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment [text]. However, in 29 states, including Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey [JURIST reports], the defendant still carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty [JURIST news archive] cases to receive a lesser sentence. Guest columnist Olga Vlasova argues [JURIST op-ed] that the Supreme Court should prohibit the death penalty for severely mentally ill offenders. Internationally, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] has called on all member states to abolish capital punishment entirely [JURIST report].

 

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