The Southern Center for Human Rights has passed along news that the US Supreme Court has declined to intervene and provide relief for Warren Hill. Hill sits on death row with an IQ of 70, which in most states would qualify him as mentally retarded* and thus unable to be executed. You can read more on Mr. Hill and his background from links that are here.
The SCHR’s statement is as follows:
ATLANTA, GA –Today, despite national and international criticism, the United States Supreme Court denied further review of the case of Warren Hill, a 52 year old man with intellectual disability (formerly known as “mental retardation”) who has already faced 4 execution dates. Mr. Hill’s case has garnered widespread attention from across the globe and has again brought scrutiny of Georgia’s criminal justice system and death penalty practices.
Although there is unanimous agreement by every doctor who has examined him that Warren Hill is a person with mental retardation, procedural barriers have prevented Mr. Hill’s intellectual disability from being considered. Mr. Hill’s IQ of 70 is undisputed, and his execution would be contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which banned the execution of people with mental retardation.
Georgia courts have repeatedly found that Mr. Hill is mentally retarded by a preponderance of the evidence. He is only at risk of execution because the State of Georgia requires a defendant to prove mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt; this is the heaviest burden of proof in the law and Georgia is the only state that requires it.
“It is outrageous that as a result of procedural barriers, Warren Hill has been unfairly prevented from having his intellectual disability considered by the courts,” said GFADP Board Chair, Kathryn Hamoudah. “Georgia must change its extreme ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ law to ensure that people with intellectual disability are protected from execution in our state.”
Richard Handspike, a representative for the victim’s family told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “The family feels strongly that persons with any kind of significant mental disabilities should not be put to death. … We do not want Mr. Hill to be executed and we believe a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is an appropriate and just resolution of this case.”
* For those that continue to be upset at the term “mentally retarded”, this is a legal threshold established in case law and court language that is in dispute with respect to Mr. Hill. The term has been used throughout this case, and so long as it is, it will be used in coverage of said case.