ATLANTA—Condemned murderer Warren Lee Hill’s execution date has been rescheduled after a federal court ordered a stay of the July 15 execution. The intellectually disabled man is affected by two unique features of Georgia law, and according to his lawyer, needs intervention from the Supreme Court.
The execution has been rescheduled for Friday, July 19, at 7 pm. Hill has refused to choose a special last meal.
The state passed the Lethal Injection Secrecy Law intended to hide the source of lethal-execution drugs from the public and then set a date for Hill’s execution.
Georgia has run out of the drug used in executions. The stock of pentobarbitol the State Department of Corrections had on hand expired this March. No domestic manufacturer makes it. Europe refuses to export it because it is used to execute prisoners.
Georgia is using a compounding pharmacy, but it won’t say who makes the drug or where it is made.
Hill’s lawyers, in a Hail Mary pass, filed an emergency injunction on his behalf saying that Hill had a right to be sure that the drug used to kill him would be pure and potent and not likely to cause him undue suffering or to harm him without killing him.
Lawyers Brian Kammer and Robyn Painter wrote that Hill’s Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment is violated by the secrecy surrounding the lethal-injection drug.
Before the DEA raided Georgia’s supply of compounded execution drugs, two people were put to death using them. Both men appeared to suffer during the procedure, according to Hill’s lawyers. One tried to speak repeatedly, and another kept his eyes open and moved around as if he were in pain.
Kammer and Painter wrote, “To address this shortage in 2010 and 2011, the state of Georgia obtained illegally imported, expired, sub-potent drugs from a ‘pharmacy’ run out of the back door of a run-down driving school in London, England. The state of Georgia used these drugs in two executions before the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raided Georgia’s lethal injection drug supply and confiscated Georgia’s illegally imported cache of drugs.”
Hill has a right to know that he won’t suffer as the others did, but state law prevents him from finding out if quality drugs will be used.
“There never has been, in Georgia’s history, such a court-blinding state secret—not even for treason,” Hill’s lawyers wrote.
According to their filing, “On July 10, 2013, the Georgia Department of Corrections responded to an Open Records Act request made on behalf of Mr. Hill with a series of redacted documents revealing that the Department of Corrections had entered into agreements with an unknown compounding pharmacy and an unknown prescriber of drugs in order to procure pentobarbital for the execution of Mr. Hill.
“Pursuant to the Lethal Injection Secrecy Law (codified at O.C.G.A. § 42-5-36(d)), all information pertaining to the identities or the location of the parties and/or entities involved in this transaction were redacted and remain unknown to Mr. Hill.”
Georgia appears to be determined to violate the spirit of both the ban on executing “mentally retarded” people and the Eighth Amendment, according to Andrew Cohen, writing in the Atlantic.
Hill has an IQ of 70, and the Supreme Court said it is unconstitutional to execute intellectually disabled people in the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia.
The Court held that it violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute death row inmates with “mental retardation,” which remains the legal term, though it is no longer considered acceptable speech.
“We are compelled to come together to form this coalition to address this urgent issue because people with intellectual disabilities deserve to live as full citizens of this country and State, protected by laws designed to recognize our diversity and uphold our basic rights, despite our differences,” said Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities Executive Director Eric Jacobson in a statement.
Jacobson wants Georgia’s law protecting disabled people from execution to be changed. No other state would execute a person with an IQ of 70, according to Jacobson, because no other state law requires the same level of proof of intellectual disability that Georgia requires.
Hill murdered two people. While he was serving a life term for the first killing, he killed another prisoner and was sentenced to death for that crime.
State experts who first found he was not intellectually disabled later said they were wrong. The American Civil Liberties Union stated, “No state expert disputes that Mr. Hill falls within the definition of intellectual disability.”
“Georgia’s legal system is once more bringing shame and embarrassment to our state, this time by failing to protect those who are most vulnerable. We continue to set the bar for the most inhumane and unjust practices in the country which is exactly why the U.S. Supreme Court must intervene,” stated Edward Dubose, State Conference president of the NAACP.