Three experts who evaluated Warren Hill in 2000 and refused to diagnose him as mentally retarded have recanted their findings, admitting to the courts their work had been “sloppy.”
In 2002 the US Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot execute a “mentally retarded” person because it is a “breach of the constitutional safeguard against cruel and unusual punishment.” This would seem to be a relatively straightforward ruling, but as The Guardian reports, the state of Georgia is “the only state in the union that insists prisoners must prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that they have learning difficulties.” This is a standard that, according to experts is virtually “impossible to achieve.”
One inmate however has managed to achieve just that. Warren Hill, a 53-year-old mentally disabled inmate was given a stay of execution just 30 minutes before he was scheduled to die last night. Hill, who had already been sedated and was awaiting the gurney learned that the 11th Circuit Federal Appeals Court had agreed to grant the stay to give them time to “consider the issue of his intellectual disabilities.” The ruling came in light of the fact that, according to Newser, every single medical expert that has ever evaluated Hill has determined he is mentally retarded. This includes three experts who examined him in 2000 but refused to diagnose Hill as mentally disabled. All three “recanted last week, admitting their work had been sloppy.”
All the doctors who have examined Mr. Hill are unanimous in their diagnosis of mental retardation, so there is no question that his execution would have been in violation of the US supreme court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v Virginia.
The state of Georgia remains an extreme outlier in requiring that defendants prove they have mental retardation “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the strictest standard in any jurisdiction in the nation. Even Warren Hill, a man with an IQ of 70 who is diagnosed as mentally retarded by every doctor who has examined him, found it impossible to meet this standard of proof.
The issues raised by the state of Georgia’s refusal to accept Hill’s diagnosis, and their attempt to follow through with his execution despite what the medical experts have determined, has gained not only national attention, with former president Jimmy Carter appealing for a postponement stating, “Georgia should not violate its own prohibition against executing individuals with serious diminished capacity,” but international attention as well. The European Union made “formal protests” through both the British and Irish consulates in Atlanta with their focus being on Hill’s mental disabilities, and the British Consul General, Annabelle Malins said, “This case has raised attention around the world, with particular concern around Mr Hill’s intellectual disability.”
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections