Update on Georgia’s Imminent Execution of Man Deemed Mentally Disabled
Saturday, July 21, 2012
As Matt Bewig has reported on AllGov, on Monday, July 23, the state of Georgia will put to death a mentally retarded man unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes and stays the execution. Attorneys for Warren Hill, a 52-year-old African American man with mental retardation, are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his case in light of Atkins v. Virginia, which banned the execution of mentally retarded offenders because their disability "places them at special risk of wrongful execution." Mr. Hill's motions for a stay of execution and rehearing of the denial of his cert petition are pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Judge Thomas Wilson of the Superior Court of Butts County, GA again found Mr. Hill to be a person with mental retardation, stating: “The Court finds that this Court’s previous finding in Hill v. Head, Butts Co. Case No. 94-V-216, 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 is justified by the evidence in this case.”
However, Judge Wilson refused to stay Monday’s scheduled execution, finding that Mr. Hill does not meet Georgia’s strict and unusual beyond a reasonable doubt standard. GA’s strict standard was highlighted in a recent New York Times editorial.
Georgia requires a defendant to prove mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt; this is the heaviest burden of proof in the law and Georgia is the only state which requires it. As a result of this standard, the Georgia Supreme Court was not satisfied that Mr. Hill had proved his mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt and he now faces execution.
In her dissent to the majority finding by the Georgia Supreme Court, Justice Leah Sears wrote, "Despite the federal ban on executing the mentally retarded, Georgia's statute, and the majority decision upholding it, do not prohibit the state from executing mentally retarded people. To the contrary, the State may still execute people who are in all probability mentally retarded. The State may execute people who are more than likely mentally retarded. The State may even execute people who are almost certainly mentally retarded." (Head v. Hill, 277 Ga. 255, 274 (2003).)
Mr. Hill's case has been the subject of diverse and extensive support for clemency. The family of the victim does not wish to see Mr. Hill executed and has submitted an affidavit supporting commuting Mr. Hill's death sentence to life without the possibility of parole, citing his mental retardation. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter have called for a commutation of Mr. Hill's death sentence to life without parole, as have numerous mental health and disability groups. Several jurors who sat on Mr. Hill's original jury have stated under oath that they believe that life without parole is the appropriate sentence. It was not offered to them as an option at trial in 1991. Earlier this week, the nation of France, a United Nations official, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for a stay of execution for Mr. Hill.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
-Laura S. Burstein
To Learn More:
Georgia Considers Defying Supreme Court to Execute Mentally Disabled Murderer (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
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