At 7 pm tonight, Warren Lee Hill is scheduled to be executed by the state of Georgia. Hill is in all likelihood mentally disabled, which normally means that his execution would be unconstitutional by virtue of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia. However, Georgia’s standard of proof of mental disability in death penalty cases is uniquely and impossibly high, meaning his execution will still go forward in spite of the strong evidence in his favor. Though the Supreme Court declined to hear Hill’s case in June, a second appeal to the high court and two state-level appeals are now Hill’s final chances. It can’t be hurting that there’s an outpouring of support for Hill:
Even the family of the victim do not wish to see Hill executed and has submitted an affidavit supporting commuting Hill’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole, citing his mental retardation. President Carter and Rosalyn Carter have called for a commutation of Hill’s death sentence to life without parole, as have numerous mental health and disability groups. Several jurors who sat on Hill’s original jury have stated under oath that they believe that life without parole is the appropriate sentence. It was not offered to them as an option at trial in 1991. Earlier this week, the nation of France, a United Nations official, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for a stay of execution for Mr. Hill.
As Amnesty International notes, Hill’s case is not the only recent instance of an individual with serious mental disability being sentenced to death in spite of the Supreme Court prohibition. In Texas, Yokamon Hearn was killed by his government last week, whereas Ohio Governor John Kasich commuted John Jeffrey Eley’s sentence to life without parole when faced with evidence of cognitive impairment. One can only hope the Court chooses to follow the road paved in Ohio rather than Texas.