Intellectual disability experts and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability recently filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to consider new testimony in Warren Lee Hill’s case. Hill is a Georgian inmate whose IQ is 70.
In the brief, experts who previously testified that Hill is not intellectually handicapped, now agree that he is. Under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, intellectually handicapped people are ineligible for execution.
The court determined that capital punishment in these circumstances is “cruel and unusual punishment” and contravenes the Eighth Amendment. However, states establish the requirements for proving intellectual disability. Georgia’s requirements are the nation’s highest.
Despite constitutional and moral questions in Hill’s case, the state faces a more basic hurdle now. His attorney, Brian Kammer, told Politic365 that the Georgia department of corrections appears not to “have any drugs for executions.”
“If that changes, they will likely seek Mr. Hill’s execution immediately, in which case the Supreme Court would be asked to expedite its decision. Georgia’s standard of proof makes it extraordinarily difficult for people with mental disabilities to prove that they are disabled. In close cases, the standard forces decision makers to err on the side of letting execution proceed.” Kammer predicts that the high court will take action in Hill’s case at the start of the new term in October.
Although the justices recently ruled on affirmative action, employment discrimination and the Sex Offender Registration Act, members of the intellectual disability community wonder if a state whose execution of Troy Davis raised global eyebrows will also execute Hill.
Georgia is the only state in the US requiring that mental handicaps be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard that is nearly insurmountable, according to Terrica Ganzy. Ganzy, a staff attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, wrote about Hill on Jurist.org.
“Certainly, evidence presented of his sub-average intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior deficits was repeatedly sufficient to prove his mental retardation by a preponderance of evidence. His abilities, however, created doubt not only in the minds of the triers of fact but also in the minds of testifying experts. That doubt is steadily marching Hill to the execution chamber.”
Hill who was imprisoned for the murder of his girlfriend, also killed an inmate. He has dodged two executions; but, many fear he will be put to death. Mental health advocates, the inmate’s family and Jimmy Carter support commuting his death sentence to life in prison.
Kammer encouraged people who are interested in Hill’s case to use the web. “People who want to help Mr. Hill’s cause should monitor the site of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.”