Warren Lee Hill is a man sitting on Georgia’s death row, convicted of not one but two murders. In 1990 he was convicted of shooting his girlfriend 11 times, and then while in prison he bludgeoned a cellmate to death. Is he guilty of these crimes? Yes, and on yesterday he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection by the state of Georgia. However, it was not whether Mr. Hill perpetrated these crimes that have sparked a nationwide debate, with input from the likes of President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. It is his metal capacity in question, and is it constitutional to execute him.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded individuals under the Eighth Amendment that forbade cruel and unusual punishments. Surprisingly Georgia was a state that spearheaded this movement in 1986. But here stand supporters for Mr. Hill stating that Georgia’s added provision that one must prove said disability beyond a reasonable doubt is unfair and unjust. With an IQ of 70, Hill is classified as “mentally retarded”. The three doctors who examined him in the beginning of the decade are now disputing their own former statements that he is not mentally retarded. All now coming forward saying that Mr. Hill is in fact mentally retarded, and should not be executed.
Earlier on yesterday, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency to Mr. Hill, leaving him with a death soon to come. But at the final hour, literally 30 minutes before execution, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgia granted him with a temporary stay of execution that will delay death for 30 days. Today made the news bittersweet, as the U.S. Supreme Court has denied hearing the case. Hill’s options are now limited and there are no comments from his council as of today.
With flashbacks of Troy Davis still fresh in the world’s mind, and the problems with the Georgia prison system, one must wonder why Georgia would take on this fight. President Jimmy Carter, who also spoke in defense of Davis, says “Georgia should not violate its own prohibition against executing individuals with seriously diminished capacity.” There are even pleas coming from the European Union in the name of international law, and the integrity of justice. It is one thing for a state to exercise its right to enforce federal law; it is another thing for them to abuse this right as some believe Georgia is guilty of continuously doing.