Hill denied stay of execution

Hill denied stay of execution

ATLANTA, GA (WTVM) - In a 5-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia has denied a stay of execution for Warren Lee Hill, who is scheduled to be put to death next Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m.

In addition to denying his motion to stay the execution, the Court has also ruled that it will not hear an appeal by Hill, who has argued he cannot be executed because of his alleged "intellectual disability." Hill claims that under the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hall v. Florida, the standard required in Georgia to prove intellectual disability is unconstitutional. Georgia requires that such claims be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt," while the majority of states use a less stringent standard of proof, which is "by a preponderance of the evidence." (The term "intellectual disability" has replaced "mental retardation" in most legal documents.)

In light of the Hall decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided May 27, 2014, Hill filed his fourth state petition for a "writ of habeas corpus" last August, challenging Georgia's standard of proof. (Habeas corpus is a civil proceeding that allows already convicted prisoners to challenge their conviction on constitutional grounds in the county where they're incarcerated. They generally file the action against the prison warden, who in this case is Bruce Chatman.) In October 2014, the habeas court in Butts County dismissed Hill's petition.

Last November, Hill then filed in the Georgia Supreme Court an application for a "certificate of probable cause to appeal," asking this Court to allow him to appeal the habeas court's dismissal of his petition.

On Friday, Jan. 16, Hill's attorneys also filed a motion to stay his execution in the Georgia Supreme Court after the Superior Court of Lee County, where Hill was first convicted, filed an execution order earlier that day. The Department of Corrections subsequently scheduled Hill's execution for Jan. 27.

Hill was given the death sentence in 1991 after a Lee County jury convicted him of murder in the 1990 bludgeoning death of a fellow prison inmate, Joseph Handspike. At the time, Hill was serving a life prison sentence for the 1986 shooting death of his former 18-year-old girlfriend, Myra Sylvia Wright.

All the Justices concurred in Tuesday's decision except Justices Robert Benham and Carol Hunstein, who dissented.