INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY: Georgia Inmate Appeals Intellectual Disability Claim to U.S. Supreme Court

On May 23, lawyers for Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill (pictured) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent his execution, citing strong evidence that Hill has an intellectual disability. Three mental health experts who testified in 2000 that Hill did not have an intellectual disability have now changed their mind about the inmate’s mental health. According to the petition, “all seven mental health experts who have ever evaluated Hill, both the State’s and Hill’s, now unanimously agree that he is mentally retarded.” In Georgia, capital defendants are required to prove “mental retardation” beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the only state in the country that sets such a high burden of proof for such claims. Lawyers for Warren Hill claim that Hill’s execution will violate the Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which prohibits the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities. In the petition to the Court, the lawyers urged, “Every court to which Mr. Hill has petitioned in an effort to present this new and compelling evidence has denied him an opportunity to prove the merits of his claim. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole has likewise refused to reopen proceedings in light of this evidence. This Court accordingly is Mr. Hill’s last and only hope to avoid an execution that is flat-out prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.”

(K. Brumback, "Lawyers for Ga. death row inmate ask US Supreme Court to prevent execution," Associated Press, May 23, 2013). See Intellectual Disability and Supreme Court.  Read full text of the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.