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Georgia rejects clemency for death row inmate who claims mental disability

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles [official website] on Monday rejected [press release] a clemency bid by death row inmate Warren Hill who was convicted of two counts of murder but argues he should not be executed because he is mentally disabled. The board gave no insight into its decision but acknowledged that Hill had exhausted his habeas corpus proceedings in both the state and federal court systems. His attorneys have argued at all stages that Hill should not have received the death penalty because he suffers from a form of mental retardation [Reuters report], and they presented evidence of such limitation at a pardon hearing last Friday. Georgia was the first state to ban the execution of mentally disabled individuals, but the disability must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Hill is scheduled to die by lethal injection July 18.

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion; Cornell LII backgrounder] that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment [text]. However, in 29 states, including Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey [JURIST reports], the defendant still carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty [JURIST news archive] cases to receive a lesser sentence. Guest columnist Olga Vlasova argues [JURIST op-ed] that the Supreme Court should prohibit the death penalty for severely mentally ill offenders. Internationally, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] has called on all member states to abolish capital punishment entirely [JURIST report].

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