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Warren Lee Hill Challenges Execution Drugs, Death Set for Friday

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By William Peacock, Esq. on July 18, 2013 2:01 PM

There are three things we can be pretty sure of. First, Warren Lee Hill is guilty. He murdered his 18-year-old girlfriend, was convicted, and then beat his cellmate to death with the leg of the sink. He also should be ineligible for execution, as he meets the legal standard of mentally retarded per all seven experts that have evaluated him. Finally, the State of Georgia will find a way to execute him, with or without a ruling in their favor later this week.

Hill was granted a temporary reprieve from his prior-scheduled execution on Tuesday when a local judge decided to take a second look at Georgia's lethal injection drugs and the related state-secrets law. Georgia, like many other states, has had difficulty locating the necessary drugs for lethal injection, as the European-based manufacturers refuse to sell them for that purpose, according to the Businessweek.

Since their supply dried up, Georgia has gone to some unusual lengths to continue imposing the death penalty, including buying drugs from a tiny outfit in London. The DEA put an end to the use of those drugs after raiding the state’s supply, though it came too late for two inmates who reportedly suffered significant pain and suffering, reports the Daily Mail.

The Associated Press reports on a third man who suffered the same fate, even after Georgia switched to pentobarbital, a drug commonly used to put dogs and cats to sleep.

Since then, Georgia has switched to obtaining its drugs from compounding pharmacies, which create individual batches of drugs, yet are not FDA regulated and have been implicated in recent health scares, including the tainted back pain injections from last year. The specific source of the drugs remains a “state secret,” thanks to Georgia’s recently-passed and unofficially-named Lethal Injection Secrecy Act.

If all of that sounds like a lot of work, just to execute a handful of murderers, well, it is. The globetrotting, backroom drug deals, substitution drugs, and trips to unregulated compounding pharmacies all show how far Georgia will go in order to carry out their executions.

So what good will the Thursday hearing do, even if Warren Lee Hill prevails? If he wins, Georgia either continues the hunt for legitimate drugs, or switches to another method of execution. Hill then has to hope that the Supreme Court steps in on account of his mental limitations and their Adkins v. Virginia holding that prohibits execution of the mentally retarded.

However, if he loses on Thursday, he’s still praying for Supreme Court salvation. It just has to come a little quicker.

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