The execution of a man with an IQ of 70 has been blocked by a Georgia court. He was scheduled to be put to death Friday evening.
Warren Lee Hill Jr. was serving a life sentence for the 1986 murder of his girlfriend when, four years into his prison term, he beat a fellow inmate to death. According to Hill’s lawyer, every doctor that has examined Hill agrees that Hill is mentally retarded (the legal term)–including three state doctors who more than a decade ago testified that they didn’t think Hill met the criteria for exemption but have since formally contradicted their earlier diagnoses. The Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case in 2002 that executing people with mental retardation is barred by the Eight Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. But Hill’s attorneys’ attempts to get him taken off death row have so far been rebuffed by the courts.
Hill’s lawyers challenged his latest execution date on the grounds that the state keeps secret the names of pharmacies supplying the drugs for lethal injections. “The use of an unknown, anonymously produced substance to carry out his execution carries an intolerable risk of pain and suffering, and thus constitutes cruel and unusual punishment,” attorney Brian Kammer wrote in a filing with Fulton County Superior Court, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan agreed, saying that the secrecy violated Hill’s constitutional rights. She issued an indefinite stay.
Georgia is expected to appeal the ruling; if the block is overturned, Hill could still go to his death Friday at 7:00 p.m.