Two Courts Issue Stays Of Execution For Hill

Feb 19, 2013

Warren Lee Hill, Jr.
Credit Georgia Department of Corrections

Updated 7:10pm

Within a half hour of the scheduled 7pm execution of Georgia death row inmate Warren Lee Hill, Jr., two courts issued stays of execution.

In an email to WABE, Brian Kammer, one of Hill’s attorneys, says one stay came from the Georgia Court of Appeals. Kammer says the other came from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Kammer says the Georgia Court of Appeals decision was based on an issue with Georgia’s method of lethal injection. He says the 11th Circuit’s decision was based on an issue with mental retardation. Recently, three doctors said Hill is mentally retarded. The same group of doctors originally said Hill was not mentally retarded.

News of the two stays of execution came after the U.S. Supreme Court denied to halt Hill’s execution and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a clemency request.

Updated 4:30 PM

Warren Lee Hill, Jr., is quickly running out of options.

Earlier this afternoon the Georgia Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution.  A few minutes ago, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles also denied Hill's request that they reconsider their July, 2012, decision denying a stay of execution.  That leaves the U.S. Supreme Court as Hill's only hope of avoiding execution tonight at 7 PM.

The Georgia Supreme Court voted 5-2 to deny Hill's request for a stay of execution. The court also denied his attempt to appeal a decision by a lower court dismissing his claim that he is "mentally retarded."

Late this afternoon, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles announced that it had denied Hill's second request for clemency.  The order from the board said that they had "reviewed and considered" all of the facts of the case and the "argument, testimony, and opinion(s)" that were a part of his second request.  It then announced that Hill's request had been denied but gave no further explanation.

Hill’s attorneys have been vigorously arguing that with an IQ of roughly 70, Hill is mentally disabled and executing him would violate the federal ban on executing people who are legally considered “mentally retarded.”  Georgia law, however, requires that this mental retardation be established beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard for anyone to meet.

Hill, 52, was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of his cellmate Joseph Handspike at a time Hill was already serving a life sentence for murder.

A request for clemency from the United States Supreme Court is still pending.

This is a developing story which will be updated as more information becomes available.