BREAKING: Intellectually Disabled Man Wins Another Appeal To Delay Execution

Warren Lee Hill

The intellectually disabled man scheduled for execution in Georgia despite a U.S. Supreme Court holding that “death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal” has once again dodged lethal injection in an eleventh-hour court ruling. Hill’s execution was postponed until Thursday night, after his lawyers argued that a state law on lethal injection drugs was unconstitutional. Hours before his execution, the court stayed Warren Lee Hill’s execution once again, agreeing to hear arguments on a new constitutional challenge.

Hill’s lawyers are arguing that a state law making secret the identity of those making lethal injection drugs is unconstitutional, because it prevents a determination as to whether the drugs amount to cruel and unusual punishment. The newly passed Lethal Injection Secrecy Act comes as news broke that the state is now sourcing its drugs from a small-batch pharmacy not regulated by the FDA. Georgia turned to this method after several international companies declined to supply their drugs for use in executions, and the European Union likewise imposed barriers to import for that purpose.

As the Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen explains, Hill’s lawyers have reason to worry about the safety of the drugs sourced from an unknown, unregulated pharmacy. They detail the state’s checkered lethal injection history in their brief: “in 2010 and 2011, the state of Georgia obtained illegally imported, expired, sub-potent drugs from a “pharmacy” run out of the back door of a run-down driving school in London, England. The state of Georgia used these drugs in two executions before the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) raided Georgia’s lethal injection drug supply and confiscated Georgia’s illegally imported cache of drugs.” These executions led to significant pain and suffering during execution, the lawyers explain, with death row inmates keeping their eyes open and attempting to communicate until their deaths.

In spite of the now-multiple reasons not to execute Hill, Georgia has remained committed to moving forward with the penalty, and the judge will take up these latest arguments in the coming weeks.