Courts seem conflicted on Warren Hill’s fate. On Tuesday, an appellate court ruled 2-1 to block a habeas petition for Hill. The petition would have opened the door to consider new evidence in his case.
That evidence includes changed stories from doctors who assessed Hill more than a decade ago. All now agree that Hill, whose IQ is 70, is mentally handicapped.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ petition denial isn’t halting Hill’s case. On Thursday, Hill’s counsel, Brian Kammer, told Politic365 that they would file a petition in the US Supreme Court “in the near future.” He said that it would be similar to filings in the Troy Davis case.
In Davis’ case, seven of nine state witnesses recanted their testimony and new witnesses identified or implicated another shooter. Despite what many believed was evidence of innocence, the state of Georgia executed Davis in September 2011.
Hill, who’s imprisoned for the murder of his girlfriend and a prison inmate, has avoided two scheduled executions. One was in February and the other last summer when Georgia modified its lethal injection cocktail.
While no one advocates Hill getting off scot-free or with a minimal sentence, a legal-ethical collision looms. Should a man with diminished cognition be executed?
Kammer expressed disappointment in the appellate court. In a statement he said, “The new evidence shows that every mental health expert ever to examine him finds that Mr. Hill has mental retardation and is thus ineligible for execution according to the constitution of the United States.”
Dissenting Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote, “The idea that courts are not permitted to acknowledge that a mistake has been made which would bar an execution is quite incredible for a country that not only prides itself on having the quintessential system of justice but attempts to export it to the world as a model of fairness….”
Kammer said that Hill is currently eligible for an execution warrant, “but apparently the Department of Corrections does not have any lethal injection drugs right now.”