GA Case Raises Issue: Does State Allow Executions of the Mentally Retarded?


A Georgia inmate’s execution was halted Tuesday night with less than an hour to go, says NPR. Prison officials had already given Warren Lee Hill one of the drugs when a federal appeals court ruled. Hill has an IQ of 70, and his attorneys have long argued that he’s mentally impaired. His case is raising questions about Georgia’s law, which makes it difficult for defendants to prove they should be exempt from execution.

The 52-year-old Hill is in prison for killing his girlfriend, whom he shot 11 times, in 1986. While in prison in 1990, he used a wooden board with nails to beat another inmate to death. More than a decade ago, three state doctors that examined Hill said he was not what was then called “mentally retarded.” All three have changed their opinion. They say their initial evaluations were extremely and unusually rushed. One said it was a close case back then, but after reviewing the record he now believes Hill does meet the criteria for “mild mental retardation.” Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes executions, says, “The question is, is Georgia violating the Constitution by basically allowing people with mental retardation to be executed?”

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