Warren Hill: Doctors Now Admit Death Row Inmate Has Mental Retardation

James Johnson

Doctors evaluating Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill have now admitted that Hill suffers from mental retardation. In December 2000, at the request of the Georgia Attorney General's Office, doctors examined Warren Hill and claimed he did not meet the criteria for mental retardation. At the time of his first diagnosis, doctors determined Hill suffered from borderline intellectual functioning.

Those doctors --- Dr. Donald Harris, Dr. Thomas Sachy, and Dr. James Gary Carter --- have now changed their opinion, agreeing with other assessments that Warren Hill is, in fact, mentally retarded.

According to Warren Hill's lawyer, Brian Kammer:

"Mr. Hill has mild mental retardation, placing Mr. Hill in the category of citizens protected from capital punishment by the 2002 United States Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia."

The doctors admit that advanced in the understanding of intellectual disability has now convinced them of their error.

Dr. Sachy writes:

"I have vastly greater experience as a psychiatrist than I did in 2000, and I have access to better science pertaining to the issues in Mr. Hill's case."

"We in the clinical community now better understand that persons with mild mental retardation are capable of such things as holding a job, working under close supervision, buying and driving a car, and so forth. It is precisely because significant deficits in cognition, judgment and impulse control can be masked by superficial functionality in cases of mild mental retardation that such persons may sometimes not be identified in court proceedings as being intellectually disabled. I believe this has happened in Mr. Hill's case."

A motion for a stay of execution and a petition of certiorari is pending with the US Supreme Court.

Mr. Hill was found in 2002 to have an IQ of just 70. Based on his mental capacity, he now falls well within the guidelines for mental retardation.

Judge John Allen of the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia originally ruled that, despite the US Supreme Court's ruling prohibiting the execution of the "mentally retarded" (now known as people with intellectual disability), Mr. Hill did not meet Georgia's requirement "beyond a reasonable doubt" -- the strictest state standard in the nation.

With a 100 percent consensus of Warren Hill's mental retardation now in place, various groups in opposition of the death penalty say his execution would be a true miscarriage of justice under the rulings of the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Georgia Supreme Court has already intervened once in Mr. Hills execution. Warren's execution date in July 2012 was delayed due to issues related to the state's lethal injection protocol; however, on the same day, the court denied Mr. Hill's petition on the mental retardation issues. On February 4, 2013, Georgia's Supreme Court resolved the lethal injection issues and lifted the stay on Mr. Hill's execution. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole previously denied clemency and has declined to give Mr. Hill another audience.

In her dissent to the majority finding by the Georgia Supreme Court that the reasonable doubt standard was constitutional, 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."