THE BLOG
01/23/2015 03:39 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

This Tuesday, Georgia Will Execute an Intellectually Disabled Man Unless the Courts Intervene

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Warren Hill has an IQ of 70. He is a person with lifelong intellectual disability, yet Georgia plans to put him to death on Tuesday regardless of this fact.

The state is pushing ahead even though the Supreme Court decided in Atkins v. Virginia back in 2002 that executing persons with an intellectual disability violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The family of Mr. Hill's victim shares that view: They don't want Georgia to execute Mr. Hill. Unless the courts intervene, Mr. Hill's life will end in an execution that serves no valid penological purpose and puts us all to shame.

Experts past and present have observed and confirmed Mr. Hill's intellectual disability. In his school records from more than 40 years ago, teachers recognized his disability. More recently, all of the doctors who have examined Mr. Hill agree that he is intellectually disabled, including three who were hired by the state seeking to execute him. Two Georgia courts also found that Mr. Hill is intellectually disabled. In other states, those rulings would have guaranteed his protection from the death penalty.

But Mr. Hill lives in Georgia, where 27 years ago, a law passed requiring proof of a capital defendant's intellectual disability "beyond a reasonable doubt." As Mr. Hill's case shows, that standard is almost impossible to meet. Indeed, Georgia is the only state with such a law. Since that statute passed almost three decades ago, juries in Georgia capital trials have found just one defendant to have an intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt.

In 2014, in Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that states may not implement standards that create a risk that intellectually disabled persons will be executed. Georgia's "beyond a reasonable doubt" law flouts that ruling, and its reliance on the standard is neither scientifically nor legally defensible.

It's not only the family of Mr. Hill's victim who objects to his execution. Several members of his original jury have said that life without parole is the appropriate sentence for him, not death. These jurors have stated that they wouldn't have given him the death penalty if they had known life without parole was an option. The leading intellectual disability organizations in Georgia and the nation, faith leaders, and international human rights organizations have spoken out against Mr. Hill's execution.

We have only a few days before Mr. Hill enters the death chamber. His execution will mock the Constitution and our common decency unless the courts intervene, now.