« New York Times editorial laments increases in "Disenfranchised Felons" | Main | Exciting new data and resources from US Sentencing Commission »

July 16, 2012

Georgia pardon board rejects capital clemency for mentally disabled murderer

As reported in this Reuters article, "Georgia's pardons board refused on Monday to stop the execution of a two-time murderer whose lawyers argued should have his life spared because he is mentally disabled." Here is more:

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were among those who wrote to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles requesting clemency for Warren Lee Hill, who is set to die by lethal injection on Wednesday for beating another inmate to death in 1990. At the time of the murder, Hill, 52, was serving a life sentence for the 1986 shooting death of his girlfriend.

In a series of failed appeals, Hill's attorneys have argued that his execution should be halted because he suffers from what they termed mental retardation. The pardons board rejected Hill's clemency petition with little comment. "After considering the request, the Board has voted to deny clemency," it said in a statement.

The decision drew a sharp response from Hill's attorney, who presented testimony at a pardons hearing on Friday from the inmate's family members and a teacher. They said they had seen evidence of Hill's limited mental capacity since his childhood. "I am horrified and outraged by the Board's decision to deny clemency for Warren Hill, a man found by numerous experts, including the state's experts, as well as the courts to be mentally disabled," said attorney Brian Kammer, who sought to have Hill's sentence reduced to life in prison.

In 1988 Georgia became the first U.S. state to ban the execution of mentally disabled defendants. But Georgia has one of the toughest standard in the nation for defining mental retardation, requiring proof "beyond a reasonable doubt"....

I expect Hill's lawyers will now make a full-throated appeal to the Supreme Court to try to get it to take up the process for Georgia uses to consider Atkins claims.  I would put the odds of a SCOTUS stay at about 40/60 against.

Some recent related posts:

July 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Georgia pardon board rejects capital clemency for mentally disabled murderer:


I would opine that the odds of getting a stay were much less than that. The cert petition was denied without relisting and dissents. Of course, after the Cleve Foster case, anything is possible with the Supreme Court.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 16, 2012 5:08:34 PM

I find your headline at least moderately disappointing as it accepts as true the very issue under contention.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 16, 2012 5:33:20 PM

And why is everyone running around saying "mentally disabled" instead of "mentally retarded"? There are various kinds of mental disability, but the Atkins rule applies only to retardation.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 16, 2012 5:57:46 PM

Kent --

Because if you say "mentally retarded," that means you're insensitive, not to mention a Nazi.

Oh, wait. As we have previously been told on this site, you're ALREADY a Nazi.

Never mind.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 16, 2012 6:11:11 PM

It's very annoying how a word that was perfectly okay and even used by the advocates for the group in question becomes verboten so that people are afraid to use it and substitute a less precise word. We really need to resist this kind of language-policing.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 16, 2012 6:27:14 PM

I think the emerging consensus is that the PC-alternative is "intellectually disabled," which is a kind of term of art in the psych community that has the identical meaning to mentally retarded

Posted by: SashokJD | Jul 16, 2012 8:48:00 PM

If a defendant is mentally retarded or insane, he is more dangerous than other killers. Those deficiencies should be aggravating factors, and the executions should be immediate. Only in the upside down, Twilight Zone world of the pro-criminal lawyer would they be mitigating factors. From the case above, one can see the result. The defendant with MR kills a girlfriend. The pro-criminal lawyer profession keeps him alive. He then kills a prisoner. One can only pray his next murder victim will be a defense lawyer.

The lawyers responsible for delaying a summary execution, including the lawyers on the bench, should be held responsible in torts for the wrongful death of the prisoner. It was highly foreseeable, and these uncaring, rent seeking, pro-criminal lawyers allowed the second foreseeable murder. The payments should not come from the innocent taxpayer, but from the personal assets of the pro-murderer lawyers, especially the one on the bench.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 16, 2012 9:16:09 PM

Since this blog tends to get low brow and nasty, I must ask if Supremacy Clause a sovereign citizen? cf. fontain v. us d. mass 2004

Posted by: SashokJD | Jul 17, 2012 1:39:54 AM

"Developmentally disabled" and "intellectually disabled" are acceptable alternatives, but "mentally disabled" is not. It is an overinclusive term.

BTW, Doug, your new "captcha" is a royal pain in the rear. Two-thirds of the time I can't make out one of the words.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 17, 2012 10:39:00 AM

The audio version is also completely unintelligible to me now (it started out being okay but then became impossible to solve). Thankfully the tool I use for solving visual challenge images is able to deal with the ones here about 4/5 of the time.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 17, 2012 12:06:26 PM

Kent and Bill,

Mentally retarded has also become a bit of a legal term of art in capital litigation as well, though. There are a lot of people who have been labeled mentally retarded (or "mildly mentally retarded") for purposes of the educational system, disability benefits, etc., who do not meet the requirements for being declared "mentally retarded" enough to preclude execution under Atkins. Of course, one can still use that "mentally-retarded-but-not-retarded-enough-for-Atkins" status as a mitigator, as a premise for a clemency petition, etc. But it may be confusing if you are arguing to the clemency board that someone is "mental retarded", as some will consider that issue res judicata if you brought and lost an Atkins motion (and you probably did - lose, that is - if you were litigating it in Georgia). I agree that "mentally disabled" is a bit broad and imprecise, but I suspect the avoidance of the "MR" term is less about PC and more about the confusion described above.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 20, 2012 2:55:36 PM

I am a student of a Law school and I am actually finding blogs that is helpful to my practice. I found it interesting to read blogs which are unusual or let me say blogs which portray crimes committed by someone who are mentally retarded. Supremacy got hit the head of the nail when he said, "If a defendant is mentally retarded or insane, he is more dangerous than other killers." But we cannot deny the fact that mentally retarded people are not on their conscious mind. This means that they are not conscious and shall not be held liable if they can commit crimes.

Posted by: Steven Martinez | Aug 31, 2012 4:50:58 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB