Washington, DC – This evening, the state of Georgia was scheduled to execute Warren Hill, a man who experts unanimously determined has an intellectual disability, which should have ruled out the death penalty per a 2002 Supreme Court ruling, Atkins v. Virginia. But this afternoon, a Fulton County, Georgia judge stayed the execution and scheduled a hearing for this Thursday to hear the defense team’s challenge of the constitutionality of a new state law that shields the identities of the lethal injection drug’s manufacturer and physician who prescribes it.
“Today, Georgia came too close to ignoring experts and crossing the line drawn by a more than decade-old Supreme Court ruling protecting people with intellectual disability in our justice system. While we breathe a sigh of relief for now, this battle is far from over for Mr. Hill and many more people with disabilities who may be at risk of unjust punishment. This stay of execution was granted on another state legal matter in the case, not Mr. Hill’s disability. The Arc is committed to fighting for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and we will continue our legal advocacy work to make sure that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this issue is followed in jurisdictions across the country,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Hill’s legal team had also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to stop the execution on the grounds of the Atkins v. Virginia decision, while simultaneously pursuing the state law issue. The U.S. Supreme Court has not responded to this request yet.
The Arc, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), has been involved in this case filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in earlier proceedings, and supporting Hill’s defense team through letters to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and the District Attorney urging his sentence be commuted to life without parole. In this most recent effort, The Arc called for the Supreme Court to step in and issue a stay to prevent the state of Georgia from executing Hill.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that executing inmates with intellectual disability (ID) is unconstitutional. But in Georgia, ID must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” by the defendant, the strictest standard in the country.