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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Possibly Retarded Inmate to Keep Execution Stay

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court refused to lift a stay of execution awarded to a low-IQ Georgia inmate with under an hour to go before he faced lethal injection.

Warren Lee Hill is on death row for beating a fellow inmate to death in 1990 with a nail-studded 2-by-6. Hill was already in prison for murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend.

With an IQ of 70, Hill has long claimed that he is retarded or mentally impaired. Courts have stayed his execution in the past, but ultimately declined to award him more permanent relief.

This changed Tuesday night when Hill's attorney presented new evidence that every expert who previously examined Hill and found him to be not mentally retarded has since changed their minds.

With under an hour to go before his execution, the 11th Circuit granted Hill another emergency stay.

A state appellate court also reportedly blocked the execution to evaluate Georgia's the lethal injection protocols.

Last year, Hill challenged the state's new one-drug execution method in Fulton County Superior Court.

Georgia has changed its lethal injection protocol twice in 14 months, and "continue(s) to refuse to comply with the regulations that the General Assembly has ordered them to follow," according to that July 20, 2012, complaint.

Days earlier - on July 17 - the state changed its lethal injection method "from a three-drug protocol to a one-drug protocol that has never been used in the state of George," according to the complaint.

The state plans to execute Hill by injecting him with pentobarbital, a sleep drug, "despite the fact that its sole manufacturer has publicly stated that the drug is not safe for use in lethal injections and has imposed end-user agreements to prevent the sale of pentobarbital for use in lethal injections," a footnote to the complaint stated.

Since 2008, Georgia, like most states that kill people by lethal injection, has used a three-drug "cocktail" to kill them: a sedative (such as pentobarbital or a related barbiturate), followed by the paralytic pancuronium bromide, and then potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Georgia reportedly adopted the change because it was running out of one of the aforementioned drugs.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded, but it left it up to the state to set standards for retardation. Georgia's standard is the strictest.

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