Why is Warren Hill Being Executed?

53-year-old Georgia death row inmate Warren Hill has an IQ of 70, and though doctors have found him to be "mildly mentally retarded," and even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally handicapped is unconstitutional, Hill will be put to death today at 7:00 p.m.

In 1989, while serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend, Hill was given the death penalty for murdering his cellmate with a wooden board. Georgia had outlawed the death penalty for the mentally handicapped by then, but the state mandated that defendants prove their handicap "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hill's appeal rests mostly on a single compelling point: The team of state doctors who originally concluded he qualified for capital punishment has reportedly reversed itself, citing their own inexperience and advances in the field. As one member of the team, Dr. Thomas Sachy, put it in Hill's application for a sentence commutation — according to Mother Jones:

The totality of evidence shows that far from "malingering a cognitive disorder," Mr. Hill has had a cognitive disorder with adaptive skill deficits since early childhood. He consistently tested in the 2-3 percentile in childhood achievement and intelligence testing, consistent with mild mental retardation. There was no dispute in 2000 among the clinicians who had evaluated Mr. Hill that he has an IQ of approximately 70. There is also evidence of significant deficits in such areas of his functioning as self-care, functional academics, interpersonal skills, and home living since prior to age 18.

 

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