Georgia’s Supreme Court unanimously decided to stay the execution of Warren Lee Hill Jr. on Monday. Hill, a death row inmate, was scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. Monday.
The court is determining if the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act was violated when the Department of Corrections moved from three legal injection substances to one, pentobarbital.
According to the state, this lethal-injection procedural change was not in accordance with the act, which mandates 30 days for public comment before implementation.
The Department of Corrections’ decision was intended to move Hill’s execution from July 18 until Monday. Officials announced the execution delay one day before it was scheduled.
A source close to Hill’s case said that Hill doesn’t currently have a new execution date and that the issue of a possible procedure act violation could be litigated for weeks or months.
Georgia is the only state in the United States requiring that mental retardation be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson backed claims of Hill’s mental retardation.
Wilson stated, “The Court finds that … Mr. Hill has an I.Q. of 70 beyond a reasonable doubt and meets the overall criteria for mental retardation by a preponderance of the evidence…”
The possible Georgia Administrative Procedure Act violation is separate from proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill is mentally retarded, the claim for which Hill was denied clemency on July 16.
Hill was already incarcerated for the shooting death of his girlfriend when he was placed on death row for the beating death of a prison inmate. His case drew anti-death penalty advocacy as human rights organization members, the victim’s family and public figures vocalized support of a life sentence for Hill. Former president and Georgia native Jimmy Carter is among death penalty opponents and supporters of life in prison for Hill.
The lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, is used to put down cats and dogs. It reportedly takes 25 minutes to take effect, from administration to pronouncement of death, while the previously used triple-drug cocktail took about 12 minutes. To prevent pentobarbital’s use in executions, the European Union banned its export to the United States.