(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – With prisoner Warren Hill's execution date set for Tuesday, Amnesty International USA issued the following comments from Brian Evans, Acting Director of the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign:
"It's appalling that the state of Georgia plans to execute a man who is mentally disabled with an I.Q. of 70. The state's decision not only defies the U.S. Supreme Court, but flies in the face of all human decency. The state courts have ruled Warren Hill to be mentally retarded with a diminished I.Q. and nine doctors who examined him agree that he is mentally retarded. If Georgia executes Mr. Hill, it will have committed a grievous injustice."
In its 2002 Atkins decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled execution of persons with "mental retardation" to be unconstitutional, because their disability "places them at special risk of wrongful execution." The process for determining "mental retardation" was left up to the states. While Georgia became the first state to ban executions of persons with mental disabilities in 1988, it did so while maintaining an impossible standard for proving disability – "beyond a reasonable doubt" – the highest standard of proof in the law.
Of the 33 remaining death penalty states, only Georgia has kept this standard requiring death row inmates to prove mental disability "beyond a reasonable doubt." Due to the inexact nature of assessments of mental disability, this standard is virtually unattainable, said Amnesty, which is why other states now employ a "preponderance of the evidence" standard – a standard Hill has met.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 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.