State’s high court halted execution due to change in lethal injection process;
Hill’s lawyers have also contended he is mentally disabled
By NBC News and news services
July 24, 2012
The Georgia Supreme Court halted the execution of Warren Lee Hill, a death-row inmate who had been scheduled to die at 7 p.m. on Monday at the state penitentiary at Jackson.
At issue is whether the Department of Corrections’ decision to switch to a one-drug formula violates state rules, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The state announced the change last week, which Hill’s lawyers challenged.
The high court said in a statement Monday that it would consider the challenge because such a change requires public hearings and a 30-day public comment period.
Hill was the first inmate set to be executed in Georgia since the state changed its execution procedure last week from a three-drug injection to a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital.
Hill was convicted in the Aug. 17, 1990, beating death of another inmate. Hill was serving a life sentence at the time for the shooting death of his 18-year-old girlfriend.
His lawyers argue that Hill is mentally disabled – significant because federal law prohibits states from executing the mentally disabled. But the state said the defense hadn’t conclusively shown that Hill has a mental disability.
On July 18, Yokamon Hearn, 33, became the first prisoner killed with the one-drug formula. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced last week they were modifying the three-drug injection method used since 1982 because the state’s supply of one of the drugs — the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide — has expired.
Hearn’s lawyers had argued that his mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant, stunting his neurological development and leaving him with mental impairments that disqualify him from execution under earlier Supreme Court rulings. Testing shows Hearn’s IQ is too high for him to be considered mentally impaired.
Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have already adopted a single-drug procedure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
VOD: Now the alleged global economic crisis has resulted in even more horrendous suffering for those already subjected to the cruelest penalty possible.