The Shameful Spectacle Of Georgia’s Death Penalty

February 20, 2013

warren hill
Warren Hill

Less than half an hour before he was to be put to death, and after he had taken a sedative to prepare for his execution, Warren Hill was granted two simultaneous stays of execution – by a state court on a challenge to the method of his execution, and by the federal 11th circuit court of appeals on the substantive issue of his “mental retardation.”

Warren Hill has an IQ of 70 and has been declared by a state judge to be “mentally retarded” by a preponderance of the evidence. In other states, that would mean his execution would be an unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.  But not in Georgia, where a prisoner must prove his “mental retardation” beyond a reasonable doubt, a virtual impossibility given the inexact science of measuring mental disability.

Add to this the fact that the victim’s family and several of the jurors from his trial now oppose his execution, and one wonders: why is the state of Georgia – which is seeking to lift the stays – trying so hard to kill Warren Hill?  Who is this execution for?

Capital punishment is a degrading and shameful spectacle. The Warren Hill case, including the cruelty of Hill’s being brought to the brink of execution only to be pulled back at the last minute, has made this crystal clear. The people of Maryland should be glad they are on the verge of opting out of this ugly and demeaning ritual. The people of Georgia will have more work to do, as their state plans to execute Andrew Cook on Thursday.