Advocates for the disabled expressed shock Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear convicted Georgia killer Warren Hill’s appeal.
Hill, 53, was convicted in 1990 of murdering a fellow inmate at the state prison in Leesburg. With an IQ of only 70, Hill is considered by advocates, and by the mental health experts who examined him, to be retarded. The three doctors who examined him shortly after he was sentenced to death initially said he was fit for execution. They all later changed their minds.
“Mr. Hill has been procedurally barred from proving his exemption from capital punishment, which is why he brought his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the hopes that the court would ensure that the evidence of his intellectual disability would be heard,” said Hill’s attorney, Brian Kammer, in a statement to the AJC. “It is tragic that our highest court has failed to enforce its own command that persons with mental retardation are categorically ineligible for the death penalty.”
“We’re disappointed… just really thinking that something different would happen today,” Kathy Keeley, executive director of All About Developmental Disabilities in Decatur. She called the Supreme Court decision “proof we need to change the law in Georgia.”
The law in Georgia requires clear and compelling evidence that someone is retarded before that person is excused from the death penalty. Keeley called it an unfair standard, the toughest in the nation.
Even a family representative of Joseph Handspike, the inmate Hill bludgeoned to death in 1990, has said they want his sentence commuted.
“The family feels strongly that persons with any kind of significant mental disabilities should not be put to death,” Richard Handspike recently told the AJC. “We do not want Mr. Hill to be executed and we believe a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is an appropriate and just resolution of this case.”
Hill has one appeal still pending with the Georgia Supreme Court. The appeal centers on a new state law that allows officials to shroud in secrecy the identities of those who are involved in the manufacture and distribution of the drugs used in lethal injections.