Warren Lee Hill, a man with a mental disability currently on death row in a Georgia prison, is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 19 despite a Supreme Court decision outlawing capital punishment for criminals who are mentally retarded.
Update - Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 at 6:00pm:
Hill was granted a last-minute stay of execution Tuesday evening by the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals to further review whether he is mentally-disabled or not, Hill's attorney said. A state appellate court also issued a stay of execution based on a challenge to the state's new method of how it administers lethal injections.
On Feb. 5, the office of state Attorney General Samuel Olens released a statement confirming Hill's execution date.
From the release:
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.
Hill, who was sentenced to death for the 1990 murder of Joseph Handspike, had his execution halted in July after he made an appeal based on Georgia's recent switch to a new execution method, which involves the injection of a single drug called pentobarbital -- a drug often used for euthanizing animals. (Previously, the state had used a three-drug cocktail for its lethal injections, according to The Associated Press.)
But on Feb. 4, Hill's chances of survival were dashed when a State Supreme Court judge struck down his appeal.
Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson ruled in July that Hill met the criteria for mental retardation by a “preponderance of evidence” but found that Hill did not meet Georgia’s strict definition for mental disability.
Georgia is the only state in the country that requires mental disability to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the New York Times notes. Hill’s lawyer Brian Kammer told previously told The Huffington Post that his client's IQ was rougly 70, and that his mental capacity peaked at the development of a sixth-grader.
Although the Supreme Court case Atkins vs. Virginia ruled in 2002 that executing prisoners who are mentally disabled violates the Eighth Amendment, the ruling left it up to states to define who falls into that category.
As Think Progress points out, only the Supreme Court can stop Hill's execution at this point. The Supreme Court, however, refused to review Hill's case in June.
Both The New York Times and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have advocated on Hill's behalf, saying he shouldn't be put to death for his crimes. Even the family of Hill's victim filed an affidavit in June, recommending that Hill not be put to death. The statement said the victim's family "feels strongly that persons with any kind of significant mental disabilities should not be put to death.”
Hill was serving a life sentence for the 1986 murder of his girlfriend when his crime against Handspike, another inmate, took place.