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Monday, February 18, 2013

Man who lawyers and doctors say is mentally disabled scheduled to be executed tomorrow night

Warren Lee Hill
  • Georgia Department of Correcitons
  • Warren Lee Hill
Thirteen years ago, Warren Lee Hill was charged with murder and given the death penalty. Now, just one day before his scheduled Feb. 19 execution, three doctors who spoke at his trial have recanted their testimony. They now say he is mentally disabled and shouldn't be put to death.

Doctors Donald Harris, Thomas Sachy and James Gary Carter testified for the state in December 2000 that Hill was not mentally disabled and shouldn't avoid the death penalty for the 1990 murder of fellow Lee Correctional Institution inmate Joseph Handspike. Hill was serving a life sentence at the facility for the 1986 murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend.

However, in recent sworn statements released by Hill's lawyers, the doctors now say that their initial diagnoses were invalid.

"The timetable for our evaluation of Mr. Hill was extremely and unusually rushed," Carter said in his affidavit testimony.

Brian Kammer, one of Hill's attorneys, has claimed that Hill has an IQ of about 70, with the mental capacity of a sixth-grade student. However, Georgia is the only state that requires proof of mental disability in court cases beyond "reasonable doubt."

In Sachy's testimony, he said he now believes that Hill has "mild mental retardation."

"I have vastly greater experience as a psychiatrist than I did in 2000," Sachy said. "And I have access to better science pertaining to the key questions in Mr. Hill's case."

Harris said in his affidavit that he initially found Hill to be "likely exaggerating his cognitive limitations," but has reversed his diagnosis after more recent further review.

"I also concur with Dr. Sachy that the science pertaining to determinations of both 'malingering' and to mental retardation has advanced significantly since 2000, and therefore I have taken these advances into consideration as I re-reviewed the materials in this case," Harris said.

Hill's lawyers have already asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution. They were set to ask a state court judge to consider the new information on Thursday, the AJC reported, and will ask the State Board of Pardons and Paroles for a new clemency hearing. Hill's legal team argued last year that the state violated procedure when it did not hold a public hearing about changing the drug combination used to execute inmates in Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled against Hill earlier this month.

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