Amnesty International has condemned the decision by the US Supreme Court to deny a petition to the court by a man with an IQ of 70 who is on death row in the state of Georgia.
The prisoner – Warren Hill – had petitioned the court to review new information in his case, namely that three doctors from Georgia who had previously testified that Hill did not have “mental retardation” (the US legal term for intellectual disability) have since submitted sworn affidavits revising their diagnoses and agreeing that he does in fact suffer from this condition.
Previously, US federal courts had ruled that they were procedurally barred from hearing this new information and Hill’s lawyers had petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse that.
Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director Steven W Hawkins said: “Today’s decision is extremely disappointing because the Court missed an important opportunity to strengthen its own ban on executions of the ‘mentally retarded’. But even more disturbing, it leaves the impression that states can disregard and undermine the law of the land.
“The failure of the Court to intervene in this and other cases is emblematic of its broader failure to ensure fairness in the impossibly flawed use of the death penalty in the United States. Procedural bars enacted by US Congress and affirmed by the courts have created an environment where an execution that would clearly violate the Constitution somehow cannot be stopped.
“Today’s decision is one more definitive reason that capital punishment is a runaway system that must be abolished. It is clear that to prevent these kinds of miscarriages of justice, ending the death penalty is the only solution.”
Warren Hill has an IQ of 70 and has been declared by a state judge to be “mentally retarded” by a preponderance of the evidence. In addition, all seven doctors who have examined him now agree that Hill is “mentally retarded”. The Georgia authorities are pursuing Hill’s execution despite the fact that the US Supreme Court has banned executions of those with intellectual disabilities since 2002, that several jurors in his trial have come to oppose the execution, and that the victim’s family also opposes the execution.