Thursday, February 21, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court upholds stay of execution for Warren Hill

Posted By and on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Warren Lee Hill
  • Georgia Department of Correcitons
  • Warren Lee Hill
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a 30-day stay of execution for Warren Lee Hill, the Georgia death-row inmate who lawyers say is mentally disabled and shouldn't face the death penalty.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens on Wednesday had asked the Federal Court of Appeals in Atlanta to lift the stay. He said that Hill's claims of "mental retardation" had already been argued and rejected. Hill, whose case has attracted international media attention, is on death row for the 1991 murder of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike.

But less than half an hour before Hill was scheduled to die at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison on Tuesday, a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to temporarily halt the execution based on new evidence.

Just days before Hill's execution, three doctors who testified in 1991 that Hill wasn't mentally disabled came forward to say their initial assessments were invalid.

"The Eleventh Circuit briefing schedule will now be followed over the next month to determine whether Mr. Hill can litigate a second federal habeas action on his claim of mental retardation given the newly available evidence which establishes consensus among every doctor who has evaluated Mr. Hill that he is mentally retarded," Brian Kammer, one of Hill's attorneys, said in a statement.

Andrew Cook, another death-row inmate who was scheduled to die this week, was also granted a stay of execution on Feb. 20 by the Georgia Court of Appeals. The Georgia Supreme Court announced today that it will decide whether or not that stay is granted. Cook is on death row for the 1995 killing of two Mercer University students.

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