Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7:32 p.m. EST:
Warren Hill has been granted stays of execution by the federal appeals court in Atlanta and the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The decision to halt the execution was announced less than an hour before its scheduled time. The state Court of Appeals granted a stay on a challenge to the state's lethal-injection procedure, while the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay on claims by Hill that he is mentally disabled and thus ineligible for execution, Brian Kammer, Hill's lawyer, said.
Will Georgia execute a man with an IQ of 70 today? Barring a late intervention by the courts, the answer is yes, Mother Jones reports.
Doctors have found Warren Hill to be "mildly mentally retarded." But even though the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled that executing the mentally handicapped is unconstitutional, the state plans to put him to death on Tuesday. The doctors who originally concluded that he qualified for capital punishment (it's up to defendants to prove their handicap "beyond a reasonable doubt") have now reversed that decision, providing the basis for Hill's appeal. His execution is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Check out the Guardian's "Ten Reasons why Georgia Should Not Execute Warren Hill":
2. Of those nine, three forensic psychiatrists gave evidence 12 years ago at a crucial stage in Hill's case, finding that he did not meet the designation of "mental retardation". Their testimony was central to the prosecution case that Hill was fully mentally capable and should be put to death for his crimes. But last week the three specialists changed their opinion and said that they made a mistake. The original evaluation was so rushed, they said, that they came to the wrong conclusion. They now agree with all other medical specialists that Hill is intellectually disabled.
3. The now-complete uniformity of medical opinion that Hill does display intellectual disabilities removes the core argument for executing Hill, as his lawyer, Brian Kammer, has pointed out in emergency appeals to the Georgia appeals court and the US supreme court that are currently before the judges in an eleventh-hour petition for a stay of execution.
4. The US supreme court in 2002 banned executions for prisoners who are "mentally retarded" – in other words, those with learning difficulties. The justices ruled that such executions violated the eighth amendment of the US constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
5. Just months after the supreme court ban was imposed, a Georgia court found that Hill was "mentally retarded" by a "preponderance of the evidence". In plain English, he was likely to be "mentally retarded" and fall into the very category of prisoner who the supreme court had just declared must not be executed …