Georgia Court’s Stay in Hill Execution Skirts Issue on State’s Intent to Execute Man with Mental Disability, Says Amnesty International

Press Release
July 23, 2012

Georgia Court’s Stay in Hill Execution Skirts Issue on State’s Intent to Execute Man with Mental Disability, Says Amnesty International

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – As a Georgia court issued a last minute temporary order to stop the execution of Warren Hill on Monday night to resolve a question over lethal injection, Amnesty International said now the court should address the state's intention of executing a man with an IQ of 70.

"This is good news, in that Hill will not immediately be put to death, but there is no question that Georgia fully intends to execute him and only the Supreme Court can put a stop to what would be an injustice," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA.

"The reprieve is welcome. Now the court should decide whether Georgia will be permitted to skirt the Supreme Court’s 10-year-old ban on executing individuals who have been shown to be mentally disabled. In any other state outside of Georgia, Hill likely would never face execution, due to his diminished mental capacity."

The Georgia Supreme Court granted the stay to resolve whether the sudden switch to a one-drug lethal injection protocol last week violated state laws guaranteeing public input on important administrative procedures (like putting individuals to death). The stay means that for now, the U.S. Supreme Court will not be reviewing Hill’s case or the unique Georgia law upon which the state bases its right to kill Warren Hill.

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Hill’s petition for clemency, without regard for clear evidence that Hill’s mental disability would have rendered him unfit to be executed in other states.

The Supreme Court ruled the execution of persons with "mental retardation" unconstitutional in 2002. Shortly thereafter, a Georgia judge found Mr. Hill to be "mentally retarded" by a "preponderance of the evidence". Just last week, another Georgia judge reaffirmed that ruling. But Georgia, alone among the 33 death penalty states, requires proof of "mental retardation" to be "beyond a reasonable doubt," the most difficult legal standard to reach.

"This is an inhumane standard of proof," said Nossel.

Amnesty International called on Georgia to bring its law into line with that of other states by eliminating this outrageous standard of proof of "mental retardation", to ensure that those with clear evidence of mental disabilities will not be executed in the future.

 

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.