Court halts execution of ‘mentally retarded’ killer

Updated
Warren Lee Hill is shown in this undated Georgia Department of Corrections photograph. Hill is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 7 p.m. on...
Warren Lee Hill is shown in this undated Georgia Department of Corrections photograph. Hill is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 7 p.m. on...
Georgia Department of Corrections/Reuters

The execution of a man with an IQ of 70 has been stayed by a county judge in Georgia.

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. This will be the third time Hill has narrowly avoided being put to death.

The latest challenge, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, involves a recent Georgia law that bars disclosure of the names of companies that provide drugs used for the death penalty and the doctors who prescribe them.

Hill’s lawyers say that secret makes it impossible to ensure that the drugs are sterile, properly made and will not cause excruciating pain.

“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.

Hill was scheduled to be executed at 7:00 pm on Monday. He will now live at least until Thursday, when a hearing has been scheduled to hear the latest challenge from Hill’s attorneys.

Court halts execution of 'mentally retarded' killer

Updated