TADP has followed Warren Hill’s case for years as he fought to demonstrate to the state of Georgia that he was, in fact, intellectually disabled. Georgia requires that defendants prove their intellectual disability, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the highest legal burden of proof. In Mr. Hill’s case, all seven medical experts who examined him, including three appointed by the state, determined that he was intellectually disabled. His attorneys claimed that their client had “the emotional and cognitive ability of a young boy.” The American Bar Associate, the ACLU, the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, the Vatican, the European Union, mental health organizations, and even the family of Mr. Hill’s victim, Joseph Handspike, along with some of the jurors from his trial, all opposed his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2006 those with intellectual disability could not be executed, but only two members of the court, Justices Stephens and Sotomayor, voted for a stay for Warren Hill. At 7:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, Warren Hill was declared dead, executed by the state of Georgia.
Many of you signed petitions and sent letters to the parole board in Georgia, asking them to stop this egregious constitutional violation, and we are grateful. Mr. Hill’s execution tragically demonstrates once again the failure of our nation’s death penalty system. How many more Warren Hill’s will be executed before we recognize that our death penalty system must be dismantled? Mr. Hill’s attorney Brain Kammer stated, “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.”
When will we stop allowing this to happen in Georgia, in Tennessee, and across this nation?
TADP’s Student Conference on the Death Penalty is scheduled for February 7, 2015, at Belmont University. Our Justice Day on the Hill is planned for March 4, 2015. Both of these events provide participants the opportunity to learn more about just how broken this system is and how all of us can get involved to end it. We will stop allowing this to happen when we all get informed and empowered to act. TADP wants to help us do that here in Tennessee. Please join us.
Photo from Reuters/Georgia Department of Correction
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