Georgia officials have scheduled a one-week window, beginning July 18 at noon, for the execution of intellectually disabled inmate Warren Hill for the murder of fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, in 1990. Despite a state judge’s ruling that, under lower standards of proof, Hill indeed was intellectually disabled, the Georgia Supreme Court overruled the decision in 2003, which was upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
The execution date comes in the wake of a long legal battle over Georgia’s statute for determining if a defendant is intellectually disabled. Today, Georgia is the only state to require that defendants demonstrate their intellectual disability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In the 2003 Georgia Supreme Court ruling, the majority justices argued that because Hill failed to clear the state’s highest bar of proof, Hill should not be exempted. The 11th Circuit’s decision concurred with this argument, contending that to be in compliance with Atkins v. Virginia (2002) the federal law “mandates that this federal court leave the Georgia Supreme Court decision alone — even if we believe it incorrect or unwise” because the authority to determine one’s intellectual capacity is given to state legislatures.
The federal abdication to state legislatures and the conflicting rulings on Hill’s intellectual capacity throughout this process demonstrate the arbitrariness in determining who is fit to be executed. While Hill may be determined to be fit for execution in Georgia, in another state, he might be protected from this sentence. This arbitrariness seems to be inconsistent with our Constitutional notions of fairness and equality before the law. Bill Kammer, one of Hill’s lawyers, said that “executing Warren Hill, a 52-year-old man whom a court has found to be more likely than not mentally retarded, would be a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
Hill’s lawyers will present to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Friday, July 13 at 9:00am. Please take action by signing this petition. The deadline for signatures is Thursday, July 12.
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