On Feb. 19, Warren Hill is slated to be executed in Georgia, despite his lawyer’s argument that he is mentally ill. Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, writes in the Huffington Post that if Hill is executed, it will be a great miscarriage of justice.
The United States Supreme Court should intervene in this case to ensure that the protection they have granted for the “mentally retarded” against the death penalty is realized. If the court does not act, a man with an undisputed intellectual disability will be unconstitutionally put to death next week …
Nobody disputes that Warren Hill has an intellectual disability. As a boy growing up in Elberton, Ga., his teachers testified and standardized testing proved he was functioning academically far below his peers. He also demonstrated adaptive delays, in conceptual, social and practical skills. The Georgia judges reviewing the case agree that Mr. Hill is “mentally retarded” by a preponderance of the evidence. Even the Georgia Attorney General’s office declined to dispute this finding in court.
This entire case is confusing to those who know the law and are advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. On the one hand, in 1988, Georgia was the first state in our nation to enact a law protecting people with intellectual disability from the death penalty. The state law prohibiting capital punishment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, followed widespread public outcry after the execution of Jerome Bowden, a man with an I.Q. score in the ’60s.
On the other hand, despite being the first state to protect citizens with intellectual disability from capital punishment and that nobody contests that Mr. Hill has an intellectual disability, he is still scheduled to be executed. Why? Because Georgia has the strictest standard in the nation for proving intellectual disability. State law requires that individuals prove they have intellectual disability “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a powerful legal concept that does not translate into the way individuals are assessed to determine if they have a intellectual disability. So, while Georgia never contested Mr. Hill’s intellectual disability or I.Q. of 70, he was not able to meet the burden of proof.
Read Eric Jacobson’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.