Just after 7:30p.m. last night, the state of Georgia executed Warren Lee Hill, 54, by lethal injection. If that’s all there was to the story, it would probably be easy to overlook.
But Warren Hill was declared “intellectually disabled” by every doctor who examined him, including by three expert witnesses who testified for the state at Hill’s capital punishment trial. Prior to last night’s execution, Hill’s attorney, Brian Kammer, said:
“Mr. Hill’s disability means that he has the emotional and cognitive functioning of an 11-year-old boy.”
Yet despite Georgia law and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court which prohibit the killing of the intellectually disabled, the Supreme Court refused to hear a petition for a last minute stay of execution. Earlier in the day, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined Hill’s request for clemency. The Board did so with no explanation of its reasoning.
Hill was originally sentenced to life imprisonment in 1986 for the killing of his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was shot 11 times. While incarcerated and serving that sentence, Hill beat a fellow inmate to death with a nail-studded board. He was sentenced to death in 1991 for that crime.
Following Hill’s execution, Brian Kammer, Hill’s lawyer, issued the following statement:
“Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia. Georgia has been allowed to execute an unquestionably intellectually disabled man, Warren Hill, in direct contravention of the Court’s clear precedent prohibiting such cruelty.”
Only days before Hill was originally scheduled to be executed in 2013, his attorneys obtained a stay when they presented statements from three doctors who examined Hill in 2000 and declared him to not be intellectually disabled. The doctors said they had been rushed at the time of their original diagnosis and had since decided Hill met the legal standard to be spared the death penalty.
But Georgia has what legal experts consider to be the toughest standard in the nation for proving intellectual disability. It requires that capital punishment defendants prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are intellectually disabled in order to avoid being executed. The state has repeatedly maintained that Hill’s lawyers failed to meet that burden of proof.
And so, in Georgia, the state of my birth, the state where I live, once again blood has been shed in the name of a form of justice most civilized nations have abandoned.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org