Warren Hill – an African American man with an IQ of 70 who was convicted of murder in 1991 – was set to be executed at 7 p.m. tonight. He has been found intellectually disabled by all the doctors and experts who have examined him. The carrying out of his execution would directly contradict the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, in which the Court found the execution of the “mentally retarded” to be ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ Several jurors as well as the victims’ family have expressed their opposition to the use of the death penalty in this case and have asked that his sentence to be commuted to life without parole.
Hill was granted a stay today, not on those grounds, but on the grounds that the secrecy surrounding Georgia’s lethal injection drugs violates Hill’s constitutional rights. Georgia’s new “Lethal Injection Secrecy Act” shields from the courts and the tax-paying public how Georgia has managed to obtain its lethal injection drugs. This prevents Hill from know whether or not the drugs to be used will be effective or whether they will cause serious pain and suffering in violation of the Constitution.
A hearing at 8 a.m. on Thursday (July 18) will consider this question, and the state of Georgia may try to lift the stay at that time.
Beyond the important issue of government secrecy on lethal injection drugs, there is the petition about Hill’s intellectual disability on the Supreme Court’s calendar, scheduled to be heard on September 30th. The petition makes the case that Hill is “mentally retarded” and that his execution would be unconstitutional.
It is to be hoped that the Supreme Court will get the chance to consider this petition and that, once it considers the case, the Court will take it up and ensure that Warren Hill is never executed.