This evening at 7 p.m., Warren Hill was supposed to be put to death by the state of Georgia, but his execution was stayed by Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan after a prolonged hearing. In the state of Georgia, 20 people have been given the death penalty in the last 10 years.
Here is what you need to know about Warren Hill:
1. Hill’s Lawyers are Challenging a Lethal Injection Secrecy Law
Warren Hill was able to get his execution stayed because his lawyers are currently battling the “unconstitutionality” of a new Georgia law that keeps information about the lethal injection serum used, especially its producer, a secret. The law, House Bill 122, known colloquially as the “Lethal Injection Secrecy Act,” was passed when companies that produced the lethal serum stopped selling it due to world-wide boycotts of the company. This led to a shortage of the serum and as passage of the bill to keep the producers secret in March 26, 2013.
Hill’s lawyers argue that, “the Defendant’s intended use of an unknown, anonymously compounded substance not conforming to FDA guidelines for drug safety,” would constitute a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, namely that forbidding cruel and unusual punishment.
You can read the complaint filed by Hill’s lawyers below:
2. He is Intellectually Disabled
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the 52-year-old Hill’s mental status has been an ongoing issue during his time on death row. After three mental health experts changed their opinions, the seven experts to analyze Hill in 2000 are now unanimously decided that Hill is “mentally retarded,” the legal term still used in Georgia to classify someone with intellectual disabilities.
Executing a mentally disabled individual was found illegal by the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia , but the decision opens a loophole allows states to set their own definition for what constitutes, “mental retardation.” In Georgia’s case, the defendants need to prove, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that their client is mentally handicapped, a hared feat for a lawyer to accomplish.
3. He Murdered Two People
Hill was already serving a life sentence for the murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend when, in 1990, he killed another inmate. While in a Georgia prison together, Hill beat John Handspike to death with a board full of nails.
4. This is the Third Time He’s Avoided Execution
Today marks the third time Warren Hill has been hours, or sometimes even minutes, from receiving his lethal injection. According to the AJC, he was most recently scheduled to be executed earlier this year, but his lawyers were able to get the execution stayed because the new evidence in determining his mental status.
5. The Next Hearing is Thursday
The next hearing being held on the subject of Warren Hill, his execution, and the legality of the drug secrecy law will be held Thursday, July 18. If the judge is not convinced, Hill can still be executed on Thursday evening.