[JURIST] The state of Georgia executed inmate Warren Lee Hill Tuesday despite arguments made by his attorneys that he was intellectually disabled. The US Supreme Court [official website] denied Hill’s application for stay of execution, rejecting both his petition for habeas corpus and writ of certiorari [order lists, PDF]. Two Justices, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the denial of the stay. Hill was sentenced [AP report] to life in prison for the 1986 murder of his girlfriend. While incarcerated, he beat a fellow inmate to death. He was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to death. Hill’s attorneys contended that Hill’s execution was a direct violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion], in which the court held that executing mentally handicapped individuals violated the Eighth Amendment [text] ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, Hill’s attorneys had argued that the standard for proving intellectual disability [JURIST backgrounder] in Georgia, which requires capital defendants to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are intellectually disabled, is unconstitutional. Previous judicial stays had blocked Hill’s execution in July 2012, February 2013 and July 2013.
Use of the death penalty remains one of the most controversial throughout the US. Earlier this week Washington state lawmakers proposed [JURIST report] bills on to eliminate the death penalty. Also this week Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to stay three executions pending a decision on the state’s lethal injection protocol or until the Oklahoma Department of Corrections finds a good alternative. Earlier this month an Indiana senator proposed a bill [JURIST report] to end the death penalty in the state. In May the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] urged the US to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following a botched execution [JURIST reports] performed in Oklahoma.