Georgia Capital Case Highlights Challenges of Proving Mental Disability


Georgia was the first state to ban executing mentally disabled death row inmates, but the case of an inmate who is to be put to death next week has highlighted the state's strictest-in-the-nation standard for proving mental disability, reports the Associated Press. Former President Jimmy Carter is among those who have said the state pardons board should commute Warren Lee Hill's death sentence to life in prison without parole. However, the state argues defense attorneys have failed to meet their burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill is mentally disabled.

Hill was convicted of the 1991 murder of a fellow inmate. Most states that impose the death penalty have a lower threshold for defendants to prove they are mentally disabled, while some states don't set standards at all. Hill's lawyer Brian Kammer said the high standard for proving mental disability is problematic because psychiatric diagnoses are subject to a degree of certainty that is virtually impossible to overcome. Prosecutors have presented expert testimony and evidence that Hill is not disabled, while his attorneys have presented their own evidence to prove he is disabled. That can make it difficult to determine anything beyond a reasonable doubt.

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