First, yes, Warren Hill killed two people. I want to get that out of the way. It's horrible that it happened.
Still, our Constitution bans torture and cruel treatment, both of which Mr. Hill is experiencing in Georgia.
Imagine being told that you are about to die, having a sedative administered preparation for the execution, and then told -- an hour later -- not yet. That is what happened to Mr. Hill last night...for the second time. Read the following narrative and just try to put yourself in his shoes for a minute -- no man or woman, even a murderer, deserves this kind of torture:
At 6pm on Tuesday night Warren Hill was given a dose of the drug Ativan. A benzodiazepine, it is known for its potency in alleviating anxiety; at that point Hill believed he had just one hour to live.Georgia did this three times to Troy Davis be he was executed, and it is an absolutely barbaric thing to happen, particularly when you consider the pain inflicted upon Mr. Hill's family:
At 5pm that evening Hill had been offered the chance to make a final statement, which he declined, and an hour before that he had been presented with a last meal of mac and cheese, baked beans, stir-fry vegetables, cornbread, cookies and iced tea. He chose not to eat a morsel of it.
Two weeks ago Hill, an intellectually disabled man who has displayed symptoms of impaired mental capacity since he was a child, was served a warrant for his execution. The sentence, to be carried out 21 years after he was put on death row, was timed for 7pm on Tuesday.
He had been through it all before. Last July he was offered his final meal, the right to make a final statement, and a dose of Ativan before the courts intervened and granted a stay of execution 90 minutes before his scheduled ending.
On Monday, once again, Hill was taken off death row and put into his own isolated quarters of Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, Georgia, on what is known as "death watch". That means that he was in the final stretch and he was being prepared for the death chamber.
On Monday and Tuesday he was allowed to say goodbye to friends and family, in poignant encounters that were subject to the prison's macabre choreography. Twelve of his closest relatives were allowed "contact visits" – that is they could sit with him, and touch him as they said their final farewells.
"This is the cruellest thing imaginable, to put the prisoner and his family through this emotional rollercoaster," said Sara Totonchi of the Southern Center for Human Rights, an Atlanta-based law firm that works with death row inmates. "The disgrace that is the death penalty in Georgia was abundantly evident on Tuesday night."As a reminder, Georgia is violating the United States Constitution by executing Mr. Hill. Perversely, when I called the Governor's office to insist that something be done to prevent this execution, the flip, condescending individual with which I spoke cited the Constitution and Supreme Court as allowing for this execution.
It's time to get political, folks. Don't stop calling the Governor's office -- numbers are below.
Governor Nathan Deal:
Chris Riley, Chief of staff: (404) 656-1776
Brian Robinson, Deputy chief of staff for communications: (404) 651-7774
Carrie Ashbee, Executive assistant to Gov. Deal: (404) 656-1776