Georgia state lawmakers are taking a close look at a law that requires death penalty defendants to prove beyond a doubt they are mentally disabled to be spared execution on those grounds. A House committee plans to meet Thursday to hear input from interested groups and members of the public.
The state that was the first to pass a law prohibiting the execution of mentally disabled death row inmates is revisiting a requirement for defendants to prove the disability beyond a reasonable doubt — the strictest burden of proof in the nation. A state House committee is holding an out-of-session meeting Thursday to seek input from the public. Other states that impose the death penalty have a lower threshold for proving mental disability, and some don't set standards at all.
The pending execution of Warren Lee Hill is highlighting Georgia’s tough standard for proving mental disability in death-penalty cases. Hill’s lawyers have long argued he shouldn’t be put to death because it’s illegal to execute the “mentally retarded.” But that has to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” in Georgia courts, and they decided Hill didn’t meet the standard. No other state requires that level of proof.