02/20/13, ATL, GEORGIA — NYDailyNews Update;
The execution of a Georgia man who killed a fellow prisoner in 1990 was halted Tuesday at the last minute so courts could consider claims that he’s mentally disabled and other issues.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted its stay of execution as 52-year-old Warren Lee Hill was being prepared for lethal injection. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the appeals court said further review is needed of recent affidavits by doctors who changed their minds about Hill’s mental capacity.
“In other words, all of the experts — both the State’s and the petitioner’s — now appear to be in agreement that Hill is in fact mentally retarded,” judges in the majority wrote in their order.
The state court of appeals also issued a stay to allow more time to consider a challenge related to the state’s lethal injection procedure.
Earlier in the day, the state parole board, the Supreme Court of Georgia and the U.S. Supreme Court had all declined to stop the execution.
“We are greatly relieved that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Warren Hill, a person with mental retardation. All the doctors who have examined Mr. Hill are unanimous in their diagnosis of mental retardation,” defense attorney Brian Kammer said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general declined comment.
Hill was sentenced to die for the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike. Authorities say he used a board studded with nails to bludgeon Handspike while he slept and other prisoners pleaded with Hill to stop. At the time Hill was already serving a life sentence for murder in the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend, Myra Wright, who had been shot 11 times.
Hill has received support from various activists and from former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.
“Georgia should not violate its own prohibition against executing individuals with serious diminished capacity,” President Carter said in a statement.
Hill was originally set to be executed in July, but the state delayed his execution when it changed its execution procedure from a three-drug combination to a one-drug method. The state Supreme Court then further delayed the execution after Hill’s lawyers filed a challenge saying corrections officials violated administrative procedure when they made the change. The state’s high court earlier this month denied that challenge, and Hill’s execution was reset for Tuesday.
Hill’s lawyers argue that he is mentally disabled and therefore shouldn’t be executed. The state maintains that the defense failed to meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill is mentally disabled.
Death penalty defendants in Georgia have to prove they are mentally disabled beyond a reasonable doubt to avoid execution, the strictest standard in the country. Hill’s lawyers have said the high standard for proving mental disability is problematic because psychiatric diagnoses are subject to a degree of uncertainty that is virtually impossible to overcome. But Georgia’s strict standard has repeatedly been upheld by state and federal courts.
Read More: NY Daily News
February 17, 2013, GEORGIA — Defense Lawyers desperately trying to save Georgia Death Row Inmate, Warren L. Hill, who is set to be executed Tuesday night
Warren Lee Hill was serving a life sentence for the 1986 murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend, Maya Wright, before being placed on Death Row for the 1990 murder of Joseph Handspike, another inmate. Hill attacked Handspike with a nail embedded in a board, hitting him multiple times. His defense lawyers have been trying desperately to save the man who they claim has ‘mental disabilities’.
Hill is currently at an Atlanta prison and is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday evening at 7PM (Feb. 19, 2013) despite a Supreme Court decision outlawing capital punishment for criminals who are deemed ‘mentally retarded’. On Feb. 5, 2013 Attorney General Samuel Olens released a statement confirming Hill’s execution date.
On February 5, 2013, the Superior Court of Lee County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Warren Lee Hill may occur to begin at noon, February 19, 2013, and ending seven days later at noon on February 26, 2013.
– The release
Hill was supposed to be executed in July, 2012 but was granted a stay of execution after he made an appeal due to the new execution method, which involves the injection of a single drug called pentobarbital, — the same drug often used for euthanizing animals. (Previously, the state of Georgia had used the three-drug cocktail method which typically includes a barbiturate, paralytic, and potassium solution.) — He is one of three Georgia inmates on Death Row trying to fight for a court order that would prevent the state from using a drug to execute them without a doctor’s prescription first.
On Feb 4, 2013, the State Supreme Court judge denied one of Hills last appeals, claiming he met the criteria for mental retardation by a “preponderance of evidence”.
However, according to defense lawyers, Hill’s IQ was approximately 70.
Many have advocated on Hill’s behalf, including US President Jimmy Carter as well as Handspike’s family saying they “feel strongly that persons with any kind of significant mental disabilities should not be put to death.”
Three doctors who previously took the stand to testify for the state of Georgia against Hill are now claiming that he is in-fact mentally disabled, and should not be put to death.
Dr. Thomas Sachy released a statement last week: ‘Having reviewed my earlier evaluation results and the far more extensive materials from the record of this case, I believe that my judgement that Mr Hill did not meet the criteria for mild mental retardation was in error.’
The other two doctors agreed and claimed their evaluations of Hill mental state in 2000 were ‘rush jobs.’
The state of Georgia has said that Hill’s lawyers have failed to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that their client is mentally disabled and the execution shall proceed.