Statement of Laurel Bellows, President, American Bar Association Re: Execution of Warren Hill
Warren Hill, a death row prisoner diagnosed with mental retardation, is scheduled to be executed today by the state of Georgia in violation of clearly established federal law. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that defendants with mental retardation are ineligible for the death penalty pursuant to the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Medical experts who have examined Hill have confirmed he is mentally retarded. The three state doctors who testified in 2000 at Mr. Hill’s evidentiary hearing have now revised their diagnoses and agree with six other doctors that Mr. Hill is mentally retarded.
In Georgia, however, prisoners with mental retardation carry a unique and extraordinary burden to prove their mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. Georgia is the only jurisdiction in the country that requires this unreasonably strict standard of proof.
As a consequence, Mr. Hill is set to be executed today despite clear and undisputed evidence that he is mentally retarded. While the ABA takes no position on the death penalty itself, it has opposed the execution of offenders with mental retardation for more than two decades. The ABA urges the Georgia Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to stay today’s execution and asks the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to grant Mr. Hill’s request for clemency.
(Media contact: Meredith.Josef@americanbar.org)
Please click here for a biography and photo of Laurel G. Bellows, president of the American Bar Association.