Georgia, the world is watching. Again.

Update: 20 February 2013

Just 30 minutes before he was scheduled to die, Warren Hill was granted a stay of execution. We don't know how long for: the state of Georgia can now appeal the stay. Details in this Guardian article

The Federal Court asked for a stay on grounds of Hills' 'intellectual disability'; Georgia's Court of Appeals asked for a stay to reconsider the method of execution (the awaiting syringe of a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital). Warren came within 90 minutes of lethal injection last year. Last night, he came within 30 minutes. He'd already been offered, and accepted and taken, an oral sedative, Ativan, to prepare himself for the gurney. The Georgia Supreme Court had earlier in the evening denied him relief by 5-2.

We will update you on developments. In the meantime, please keep continuing to spread the word about the cruel intentions of the Georgian state to deny life to a man with an IQ of 70.

 

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Georgia schedules first execution since Troy Davis

Today the state of Georgia is set to execute again, and this time, there are doubts about the 'intellectual ability' of the man sentenced to die.

Georgia last executed someone on 21 September 2011, Troy Anthony Davis, amidst a global outcry. The now infamous #IamTroyDavis and #TheWorldIsWatching hashtags were used by hundreds of thousands of people and drew the eyes of the world to Georgia’s execution chamber.  Many people believed that Georgia executed an innocent man that day, and over a million people globally signed a petition calling for his execution to be stopped.

Before he was executed, Troy said that the campaign to save his life was not just about him – in his words, he said that it was ‘for all the Troy Davis that came before me and all the Troy Davis who will come after me’.

Proving Warren's 'mental retardation'

Right now, the State of Georgia is making plans for its next execution, scheduled for 7pm local time today. The man they plan to execute is Warren Hill, sentenced to die in 1991 for killing a fellow prisoner.

In 1996 his lawyers submitted an appeal against his death sentence, claiming he had “mental retardation”. Georgia’s own laws prohibit the use of the death penalty on anyone found to have “mental retardation”, but that it must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the only US state to require such proof.

In 2002 a judge found that Warren Hill did indeed have “mental retardation”, but that he had not, beyond reasonable doubt, proved it. There has been much made of this legal standard adopted by Georgia, but ultimately, it seems that it is inevitably virtually impossible to satisfy.

90 minutes until execution

Despite a court accepting that Warren Hill has an IQ of 70 and meets the overall criteria,  the judge denied Hill's motion for a stay of execution because this had not been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In July last year, the Georgia Supreme Court voted not to consider his appeal, by a majority of 6-1.

On the night of his scheduled execution, 23 July 2013, Warren's execution was stayed – with just 90 minutes spare. Not because there was a doubt over whether he should be executed. No, the authorities couldn’t agree on how to kill him, after Georgia wanted to switch to executing its prisoners with a single dose of pentobarbital, rather than its previous lethal 3 drug cocktail. That’s what they plan to administer, at midnight UK time.

So after a rollercoaster of appeals, denials, and stays of execution, the countdown is on.

The fight's not over

Right now Warren is likely to be in the 'death watch' cell. He will be offered a sedative, examined by a doctor to check he's fit enough to be killed, and will be offered a last meal.

All the while his lawyer, Brian Kammer, will, again, be working round the clock to try and save his client’s life. His lawyers will be arguing that his execution would be a violation of the 8th amendment and that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

They are also petitioning the court to consider revised statements from the examining doctors who have changed their statements regarding Hill’s level of ‘intellectual disability'. One of the doctors said of his original statement, that “the whole process, including my evaluation of Mr Hill, was rushed … my previous conclusions about Mr Hill's mental health status were unreliable because of my lack of experience at the time”.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the State’s final failsafe, has exclusive authority to grant clemency. It has declined to re-hear a case for clemency, but it is hoped the revised medical testimonies might make the Board reconsider.

We can only watch the Georgian execution chamber, and plead for mercy. Please help us raise the profile of this case and show Georgia that the eyes of the world are once again on them.

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