“Executing Warren Hill, a 52-year-old man whom a court has found to be more likely than not mentally retarded, would be a terrible miscarriage of justice,” said Brian Kammer, one of Hill’s lawyers. Kammer said he will ask the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Hill clemency.
In 1988, Georgia became the first state in the nation to ban executions of the mentally disabled. Lawmakers enacted the law in response to the 1986 execution of Jerome Bowden, who had been found to have the mentality of a 12-year-old.
In passing the law, the Legislature required capital defendants to prove “mental retardation” beyond a reasonable doubt, the same standard required of juries to convict someone of a crime. Today, Georgia is the only state in the country that sets such a high burden of proof for such claims.
When the U.S. Supreme Court barred executions of the mentally disabled in 2002, it left it up to the states to set their own guidelines.
Hill’s problem is that a state judge found Hill to be mentally disabled, but under the lowest legal threshold — by a preponderance of the evidence (or more likely than not).
In 2003, dissenting judges reversed that decision because Hill’s diminished mental capacity could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Though his lawyers sought appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.
Georgia is also the state that committed the sanctioned murdered Troy Davis, 42, in September of last year for the shooting death of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. Though supporters from around the world rallied behind Davis and a dizzying amount of evidence called his guilt into stark question, Georgia — and the U.S. Supreme Court — moved forward with the execution.