Execution of mentally disabled US man postponed, again
The execution of a US inmate diagnosed as "mentally retarded" was indefinitely delayed Thursday, as a judge considers a complaint over what the defense calls the "extreme secrecy" surrounding the drugs to be used.
The execution of Warren Hill, 52, had already been postponed once this week, after a judge granted a last-minute stay on Monday. Prison authorities had rescheduled it for Friday.
But Fulton county judge Gail Tusan said Hill would not be put to death until she could give a final decision on whether a recent Georgia law limiting disclosures of where it obtains a drug used for lethal injections violated his constitutional rights.
In her decision, she wrote that the eighth amendment to the constitution, banning "cruel and unusual punishment," means an inmate has the right to know the details of how he or she will be put to death and that the method will not "cause serious illness and needless suffering."
One of Hill's defense lawyers, Brian Kammer, said in a statement he was "deeply relieved" by Tusan's ruling, adding that they were still waiting for a separate ruling from the US Supreme Court over whether Hill's intellectual capacity renders him "mentally disabled".
But Georgia state prosecutors immediately appealed Tusan's ruling in the state supreme court, which could render its decision as soon as Friday. If the higher court rules for the state, Hill's execution could go off as scheduled on Friday at 7 pm (2300 GMT).
Hill was already serving life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend when he fatally bludgeoned a fellow prisoner in 1990. He was subsequently sentenced to death.
A 2002 Supreme Court ruling barred the execution of people suffering from mental impairment.
In 2000, three doctors ruled that he did not meet Georgia's criteria -- regarded as the toughest in the United States -- to be classified as mentally disabled.
However, those three doctors have since revised their assessments and unanimously agree that Hill, who has an IQ of 70, is a person with mental retardation
Normally that would be enough to prevent authorities from executing Hill, but his lawyers complain that they have been "procedurally barred" from raising his case in Georgia's lower courts.