Should a man with an IQ of 70 be on death row?

Warren Hill won a reprieve 30 minutes before he was due to be lethally injected. But it may prove temporary...

He killed twice, and twice the state of Georgia has attempted to kill him. But for now Warren Hill, 53, is still breathing. His most recent rendezvous with the executioner, at 7pm on Tuesday night, was again averted by the intervention of two courts, with just 30 minutes to go.

But the victory for his lawyers, who argue that their client should be spared the death penalty because he is intellectually impaired, may be fleeting. It remained unclear last night how durable the twin reprieves will be – one court ordered a stay of at least 30 days. If and when they lapse, execution may still come quickly.

Hill had been serving a life sentence for shooting dead his 18-year-old girlfriend when, in 1990, he bludgeoned his prison cellmate to death with a board studded with nails. The second murder earned him a death sentence and last July the state came within 90 minutes of doing the deed before a stay was issued.

On Tuesday it was closer. Just half an hour more and they would have dispatched him by lethal injection. Indeed, attendants had already administered the oral sedative Ativan to calm him before being taken to the death chamber.

One of the stays was from the Georgia Court of Appeals to address concerns about how the death chamber handles the drugs used in lethal injections.

But the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court, took up the issue that has been the main fight of Hill’s lawyers – that he is mentally impaired. He has a recorded IQ of just 70.

A 2002 US Supreme Court ruling outlaws the execution of anyone who does not have their full mental faculties. However, Georgia says it is incumbent on the defendant to prove “mental retardation” and to do so “beyond a reasonable doubt”. No other state with capital punishment on its books sets such a standard.

Brian Kammer, Hill’s lead lawyer, said that in issuing its stay, the federal court ordered “a further briefing on the issue of mental retardation”.

The position of the defence appeared to be bolstered recently after three doctors, who at the time of Hill’s trial said they did not consider him retarded, recanted their testimony, saying that advances in treatment and diagnosis had prompted them to change their minds.

“All the doctors who have examined Mr Hill are unanimous in their diagnosis of mental retardation, so there is no question that his execution would have been in violation of the US Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling,” Mr Kammer said in a statement after the stay was issued.

The case has drawn international attention including from the European Union which had called for clemency. “This case has raised attention around the world, with particular concern around Mr Hill’s intellectual disability,” said Annabelle Malins, the British consul general in Atlanta. Former President Jimmy Carter also issued a statement on Tuesday on behalf of himself and his wife. “Georgia should not violate its own prohibition against executing individuals with serious diminished capacity,” it said.

Demonstrating that Hill qualifies as ‘mentally retarded’ remains the defence’s first challenge. “The state of Georgia remains an extreme outlier in requiring that defendants prove they have mental retardation ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ This is the strictest standard in any jurisdiction in the nation,” Mr Kammer said.

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tulisa as a judge on the X Factor in 2012
tvLouis Walsh confirms star's return
Life and Style
fashionClothes shop opens on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Project Coordinator - Cisco Partner - £110 p/d

£110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator (SC Cleared), Cisco Go...

KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

£200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

Test Manager - Banking - Yorkshire - £450 per day

£400 - £500 per day: Orgtel: Test Manager - Banking - West Yorkshire - £400-£5...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone