Lawyers have called the execution of a man with learning disabilities in the US state of Georgia a“grotesque miscarriage of justice”.
Warren Lee Hill, 54, was put to death after he killed a fellow inmate, despite arguments from his lawyers that the act would breach the US Constitution.
The inmate was executed by lethal inject at the state prison in Jackson, around 46 miles (74 km) southeast of the state capital Atlanta. Hill declined to make a final statement, but did accept an offer to have a prayer read over him by a clergy member, and was pronounced dead at 7:55pm local time.
Five thousand people signed a petition seeking to spare his life which was presented to the state parole board, his lawyers said.
Supporters included former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the European Union and the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, according to his attorneys.
Hill’s lawyers argued that he had the mental capacity of an 11-year-old, and filed affidavits from three doctors who found Hill competent 13 years ago but now believed he was mentally disabled.
In pictures: Controversial executions
In pictures: Controversial executions
1/5 George Stinney Jr, 14
George Stinney Jr became the youngest person to be executed in the US in the 20th century when he was sent to the electric chair in 1944 during the trial that lasted less than three hours and reportedly bore no evidence and barely any witness testimonies.
2/5 Clayton Lockett, 38
Convicted of the murder and rape of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman in 2000 and sentenced to death. Lockett died of a heart attack after a failed execution by lethal injection in April 2014
3/5 Roy Blankenship, 55
Killed by lethal injection in 2011 after he murdered an elderly woman. Witnesses saw him grimace and jerk as he became the first person put to death in that state with pentobarbital. Medical experts said he “suffered greatly”
4/5 Michael Wilson, 38
Executed by lethal injection in January 2014. Wilson was convicted of murdering co-worker Richard Yost during a robbery at a convenience store in 1995. He is one of three people executed for the crime
5/5 Dennis McGuire, 53
Sentenced to death following the rape and murder of pregnant 22-year-old Joy Stewart in 1989. After spending 25 years on death row fighting the order to end his life, McGuire was executed by lethal injection in January 2014
“This execution is an abomination,” Hill's attorney, Brian Kammer, said in a statement. “The memory of Mr Hill's illegal execution will live on as a moral stain on the people of this State and on the courts that allowed this to happen.
“Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia.
“Georgia has been allowed to execute an unquestionably intellectually disabled man, Warren Hill, in direct contravention of the Court's clear precedent prohibiting such cruelty," he added.
In 1986, Hill was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend, Myra Wright, whom he shot 11 times.
While serving that sentence, he beat a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death using a nail-studded board. In 1991, Hill was once again convicted with murder and a jury sentenced him to death.
The authorities had previously set a date for Hill’s execution in July 2012, February 2013 and July 2013, but courts stepped in at the last minute with temporary stays to allow them time to consider from Hill’s lawyers.
But state and federal courts rejected his lawyers' latest filings, and the US Supreme Court declined his request for a stay of execution on Tuesday evening.
In 1988, Georgia was the first state US to ban the execution of mentally disabled inmates, but critics point out that its standards are the toughest in the country as defendants are required to prove they are ill beyond a reasonable doubt.
Experts generally define mental disability as having a score of 70 or below on intelligence tests, with Hill scoring 69 on one intelligence test and in the 70s on others, according to court records.
The state had consistently said Hill's lawyers failed to meet that burden of proof, and said Hill had the capacity to understand his crime, noting he served in the US Navy and was a father figure to his younger siblings.
Additional reporting by AP and ReutersReuse content