The Straits Times
Published on Feb 20, 2013

Eleventh-hour delay in execution of mentally disabled man


WASHINGTON (AFP) - An appeals court in the US state of Georgia on Tuesday delayed the execution of a mentally disabled man with just minutes to spare, his lawyer said.

The US Supreme Court earlier rejected a final appeal in the case of Warren Hill, a 52-year-old African American with a reported IQ of 70, who has spent the last 21 years on death row for killing a fellow inmate. His planned execution has drawn protests from rights activists and mental health advocates calling the sentence a miscarriage of justice.

The Supreme Court ruled against the execution of prisoners with mental disabilities in 2002, but left each state with the authority to determine what constitutes mental disability. Georgia has the strictest standard of any US state, with courts requiring "proof of retardation beyond a reasonable doubt" - a burden that some mental health professionals say is almost impossible to meet.

A Georgia court earlier agreed with an appeal by Hill's lawyers, but was then overruled by a higher court in the state, which found that Hill could not prove his retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. In the latest appeal, Hill's lawyers had asked the court to grant them another opportunity to prove he is ineligible for execution.