'Cruel and Unusual' Execution of Mentally Disabled Prisoner Scheduled for Monday

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Common Dreams

'Cruel and Unusual' Execution of Mentally Disabled Prisoner Scheduled for Monday

Advocates urge the Supreme Court to intervene and save Warren Hill's life

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Georgia prisoner Warren Hill—who has been indisputably diagnosed as 'mentally disabled'—is slated for execution Monday, despite federal laws banning the execution of mentally disabled people.

His scheduled execution races forward after state and federal courts refused to consider new evidence of his disability.

Advocates are demanding that the Supreme Court stay his execution on the grounds it would be a gross violation of the 8th amendment ban on 'cruel and unusual punishment,' based on a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the death penalty for prisoners considered mentally disabled (referred to as "mentally retarded" in the ruling).

Hill was sentenced for execution after killing another prison inmate while serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend in 1990.

Four medical experts previously testified that Hill meets the criteria of mental disability, while three said he did not. However, the three who denied his disability redacted their testimony this year and declared that Hill is in fact disabled. This means there is consensus among all of medical professionals who examined him.

A New York Times editorial declares:

All seven experts who have examined Mr. Hill now agree he is mentally retarded. If that doesn’t count as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it is hard to imagine what would.

Yet, Georgia state and federal courts are refusing to rehear his case on legal technicalities, and the state moved quickly to fast-track his execution, despite the new medical revelations.

Hill's only hope now is a stay from the US Supreme Court.

Hill's supporters declare that use of the death penalty—already a violation of human rights—is especially cruel in this case. The ACLU declared in a statement:

The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Executing this indisputably intellectually disabled man would not only violate our Constitution, but it would be cruel and unjust beyond reason.

Hill will be killed Monday night by an injection of lethal drugs unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

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