Georgia Disabilities Expert Calls for Halt to Execution of Inmate with Mental Retardation

On February 19, Georgia is scheduled to execute Warren Hill, a death row inmate who has been diagnosed with mental retardation (intellectual disability). Over a decade ago, in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded. However, Hill continues to face execution because Georgia requires proof of retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, the strictest such standard in the country and one almost impossible to meet in mental health evaluations. In a recent op-ed in the Huffington Post, Eric Jacobson, the Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, wrote, “State law requires that individuals prove they have intellectual disability ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ a powerful legal concept that does not translate into the way individuals are assessed to determine if they have an intellectual disability. So, while Georgia never contested Mr. Hill's intellectual disability or I.Q. of 70, he was not able to meet the burden of proof.” Since the trial, several of the jurors now say the appropriate sentence for Hill is life without parole, which was not an option at the time of his trial. In addition, the family of the victim in the case supports life without parole instead of death for Hill. According to Jacobson, a family member said, “I and my family feel strongly that persons with any kind of significant mental disabilities should not be put to death.”

(E. Jacobson, "The Supreme Court Must Stop the Execution of Warren Hill," Huffington Post, February 11, 2013).  See Intellectual Disability and New Voices.