Temporary reprieve for US death row inmate

2012-07-24 12:05


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The supreme court in the southern US state of Georgia on Monday gave a temporary reprieve to a man sentenced to death for murder just two hours ahead of his scheduled execution.

Warren Hill was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 19:00 for killing a fellow inmate.

The 52-year-old, who has spent the last 21 years on death row, reportedly has an IQ of 70, which puts him below the threshold for mental disability.

The US Supreme Court ruled against the execution of prisoners with mental disabilities in 2002, saying the disability "would run the risk of a wrongful execution". However, the Court left each state with the authority to determine what constitutes mental disability.

Hill was to be the first person in Georgia to be put to death using a single drug, pentobarbital, instead of the previously standard three-drug cocktail.

The state supreme court ruled unanimously to grant a stay of execution, saying it needed to investigate whether a lower court erred in determining that the change in execution protocol was legal under Georgia law.

Highlighting questions

The court will offer its own ruling on whether the new execution method is legal, which could take weeks.

"Georgia, almost on the eve of the execution, switched to a different method, pretty radically different," Death Penalty Information Centre director Richard Dieter said.

There have been "only a handful of executions with this one drug", he added, saying "if you want to use it, you need to know a lot more".

The case also highlights questions over the severity of Georgia's criteria to define who is mentally handicapped.

While Georgia requires proof of mental disability "beyond a reasonable doubt", all 49 other states consider "a preponderance of evidence" enough proof.

The US Supreme Court had declined to review Hill's case, but his lawyers have requested they reconsider.

High profile figures

Monday, a source familiar with the matter said the Court will hold off on deciding whether to hear an appeal now that the execution has been postponed.

Georgia was "the first state to ban the death penalty for people with mental retardation", Dieter said, but because it was first, it created "a very strict standard".

He said that it should be up to the Supreme Court to decide the norms and to "control the states that are outside" them.

Last week, a Georgia judge ruled that Hill was intellectually disabled to a lesser degree than the state requires to preclude the death penalty.

But "the problem is that Georgia makes the proof requirement essentially impossible to meet for defendants who clearly have mental retardation", one of Hill's lawyers, James Ellis, said.

Several high profile figures - including former US president Jimmy Carter, as well as the family of Hill's victim - have called for Georgia to commute Hill's sentence to life in prison.

France and a UN human rights expert have also called for the execution to be suspended.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Fascinating facts about dogs

Think you know a lot about dogs? How many of these facts do you know?



Perfectly captured cat snapchats!
Fascinating facts about dogs
Out with the old dog, in with the new
Play with your pet when you're not at home
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.