ATLANTA—Double murderer Warren Lee Hill is facing his fourth execution date. Only in Georgia could a man with Hill’s level of intellectual disability be executed, according to Eric E. Jacobson.
“What it looks like is a very sad day,” said Jacobson, the executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD)—a federally funded, independent state agency that advocates on behalf of Georgians and families living with developmental disabilities.
In Georgia, a well-intentioned law meant to protect people with intellectual disabilities from the death penalty requires that the disability be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” instead of the standard every other state follows, “preponderance of the evidence,” according to Jacobson.
There has been no progress yet in passing legislation to change the law, said Jacobson. “The death penalty is a very emotional issue. Stepping out is very hard to do.”
Hill held a job and was an important support for his family. Because of that, the experts that evaluated him after his conviction did not think he was intellectually disabled. They later wanted to amend their finding, but the courts did not let them, according to Jacobson.
He is “almost like a reflection of the policies that GCDD has been advocating for for 20 years now,” says Jacobson.
GCDD has advocated for mentally limited people to be fully integrated into the community, to hold jobs and have families.
In spite of that, Jacobson points out that he is still intellectually disabled and should not be put to death.
One advocate, Kathryn Hamoudah, said she thinks the case “represents all the things that are wrong with the death penalty in our state.”
Hamoudah is chair of the board of Georgians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty. She thinks Hill should have the option of life without parole. More than that, she thinks Georgia’s law should be changed. “The burden of proof is so high that the law does not protect those it is meant to protect,” she said.
She plans to attend a vigil tomorrow at the state prison.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles heard from supporters of Hill Monday morning. Hill is set to die Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson.
Hill was serving a life sentence in 1990 for the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend when he killed a fellow inmate. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death. Hill was sentenced to serve life in prison for the 1986 killing of his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was shot 11 times. While serving that sentence, he beat a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death using a nail-studded board. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death.
Hill’s lawyers have long argued that he is intellectually disabled and therefore shouldn’t be executed. Advocacy organizations in Georgia and nationally are also asking state officials and the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Hill’s execution. They say a U.S. Supreme Court ruling categorically bans the execution of persons with intellectual disabilities.
The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.