Warren Hill Execution Stayed: Mentally Retarded Georgia Inmate Spared

Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill was scheduled to be executed on February 19, 2013 at 7:00pm. A motion was filed for a stay of execution, alleging that Hill is a mentally retarded man and therefore, said execution would be in violation of the US Constitution. As of now, mere minutes before Hill’s planned execution, he has been spared.

Doctors evaluating Hill previously claimed in December 2000 that he did not meet the criteria for mental retardation. His first diagnosis maintained that Hill suffered from borderline intellectual functioning.

The doctors who initially examined Hill later changed their opinion, agreeing with other assessments (from the state and petitioner experts) that Hill is, in fact, mentally retarded.

A stay of execution for Hill came down to a US Supreme Court decision or the intervention of Georgia’s Governor, Nathan Deal.

The petition requesting Hill’s execution be stayed included a number of legal precedents, as well as the updated recommendations from all three of the doctors whom originally diagnosed Hill.

“I now believe, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, that Mr. Hill does meet the criteria for mild mental retardation . . . .” wrote Dr. Donald W. Harris, in his official revised affidavit.

“[I]t is now my opinion, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, that Mr. Hill’s correct diagnosis is mental retardation,” concurred Dr. James Gary Carter.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has officially stayed the execution of Hill, with minutes to spare before he was to be put to death. His attorney, Brian Kammer, was elated at the announcement.

“We are greatly relieved that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Warren Hill, a person with mental retardation,” Kammer wrote. “All the doctors who have examined Mr. Hill are unanimous in their diagnosis of mental retardation, so there is no question that his execution would have been in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia.”

Kammer’s statement also underlined the difficulty, unique to the state of Georgia, of preventing persons with mental disabilities from extreme punishment such as the death penalty.

“The state of Georgia remains an extreme outlier in requiring that defendants prove they have mental retardation ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ This is the strictest standard in any jurisdiction in the nation. Even Warren Hill, a man with an I.Q of 70 who is diagnosed as mentally retarded by every doctor who has examined him, found it impossible to meet this standard of proof. The Eleventh Circuit was correct to intervene in this case and prevent a mentally retarded man from being put to death tonight.”

Hill was on death row over the 1990 murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend.

Do you think that Warren Hill’s execution should have been stayed due to his mental retardation?