Georgia’s uniquely high judicial standard for determining if a defendant is mentally retarded took center stage at a hearing Thursday at the state Capitol. The review comes as the state’s high court considers an appeal by death row inmate, Warren Lee Hill, whom lawyers say more than meets the standard but is nonetheless facing execution.
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 U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Georgia death row inmate whose lawyers say he is mentally disabled and shouldn't be executed. Warren Hill's lawyers asked the Supreme Court in May for a review after three doctors who initially said Hill was not mentally disabled changed their opinions.