I wrote recently about the scheduled execution of Warren Hill, a mentally retarded Georgia man. Mr. Hill's execution is now slated for Monday, July 23, one week after the previously scheduled date.
In 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that execution of prisoners suffering from mental retardation violated the Eighth Amendment. As Mr. Hill's case shows, reality does not always conform to this ideal. Georgia happens to be the only state that requires proof of mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, a uniquely high burden of proof for death row prisoners.
The State Supreme Court, however, ruled that Mr. Hill had to prove his mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. The dissent rightly argued that applying the tougher standard is unconstitutional because it imposes too high a risk that a court’s conclusion will be wrong. The dissent relied on the United States Supreme Court holding that it is unconstitutional to require a defendant to prove that he is incompetent to stand trial by any standard higher than a preponderance of the evidence.Currently, Mr. Hill has a motion for a stay of execution pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as a motion for rehearing of the Court's denial of Mr. Hill's petition for certiorari. His attorneys have also filed an appeal for a stay of execution with the Georgia Supreme Court.
Since my last diary, the issue of Mr. Hill's mental retardation has been litigated again, and a Butts County judge has ruled:
A Butts County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Hill has proven an IQ of 70 beyond a reasonable doubt and meets the overall criteria for being mentally disabled by a preponderance of the evidence.Mr. Hill's IQ of 70 has been conceded beyond a reasonable doubt; he meets the criteria for mental retardation by a preponderance of the evidence. Only Georgia's high burden of proof keeps Mr. Hill slated for execution - in spite of the Supreme Court's ruling ten years ago.
Georgia requires death row inmates to prove beyond a reasonable doubt they are mentally disabled to avoid execution. The court said Hill failed to do that.