We are so happy to share that the Georgia Supreme Court has halted the scheduled execution of Warren Hill tonight. Again, no execution will happen tonight in Georgia. Rejoice!
The Georgia Supreme Court stated that they intend to consider whether the proper procedure took place when the Georgia Department of Corrections changed their lethal injection procedure last week. We include an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution on the stay below.
Thanks so much to every person who raised their voice in opposition to the execution of Warren Hill!
By Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
5:35 p.m. Monday, July 23, 2012
The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday unanimously granted a stay of execution to Warren Hill, a death-row inmate who was scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m.
The court said it would decide whether the Department of Corrections' recent decision to switch its lethal-injection process from three drugs to one violates the state Administrative Procedure Act.
Earlier Monday, a Fulton County judge had expressed frustration the state Supreme Court had yet to decide the issue on the merits. In a ruling from the bench, Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall encouraged the court to issue a substantive ruling on the issue.
The state has contended the change in the lethal-injection procedure was not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a 30-day public comment period before a change in procedure is allowed.
Hill is on death row for killing a fellow inmate in a southwest Georgia prison. At the time, he was serving a life sentence for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend.
Hill is also challenging the state's law that determines whether an inmate is mentally disabled — and thus ineligible to be executed. Two state judges — both hearing appeals filed by Hill years after his 1991 trial — have found that Hill is more likely than not to be mentally disabled. But Hill has not cleared the state's stringent legal threshold that requires capital defendants to prove their mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. Georgia's law is the only one of its kind in the country.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, after receiving letters asking for mercy from state and national advocacy groups for the developmentally disabled, recently declined to grant clemency to Hill.
Hill's challenge to the state's burden-of-proof threshold is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Lisa Heller, one of Hill's lawyers, told Schwall on Monday that she also will immediately appeal his ruling on the Administrative Procedure Act to the high court.
Schwall noted that a year ago the state Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, declined to stay Cobb County killer Andrew DeYoung's execution on grounds a change in lethal-injection protocol violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
Heller had argued the state Supreme Court never addressed the issue on its merits.
Schwall agreed. In finding that the lethal-injection protocol changes do not violate the Administrative Procedure Act, Schwall said he would like the state high court to give judges direction on the issue.
The issue will come up again in future cases, he said. Schwall almost stayed Hill's execution pending his appeal, but decided the state Supreme Court will issue a stay if it decides to consider the Administrative Procedure Act issue.
"I want to make sure the state won't execute the defendant without ruling on my order," Schwall said to Heller. "I want you to have a chance to get a ruling on the substantive issue."