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Warren Lee Hill: Execution Set for Monday Unless SCOTUS Stays

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By William Peacock, Esq. on July 11, 2013 3:58 PM

Absent a last-second stay by the United States Supreme Court, Warren Lee Hill, a mentally retarded inmate who killed his girlfriend, and later, beat a fellow prisoner to death, will be executed. The Eleventh Circuit declined to review a motion to delay the execution once more, after they previously granted a stay, then denied his habeas corpus petition under the auspices of AEDPA procedural requirements.

Hill’s situation might be the first of its kind. While he belongs to one of the three protected groups that the Supreme Court has previously decided could not be executed per the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment (juveniles, mentally insane, and mentally retarded), he could not prove mental retardation at the time of his trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Only Georgia requires such a high burden of proof.

Since his trial, as we previously reported, the three experts that diagnosed him as malingering reversed their prior diagnoses, citing inexperience and a rushed evaluation.

The Eleventh's previous opinion relied upon the procedural limitations of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, while the dissent argued that there should be an exception to the procedures for cases where someone is categorically ineligible for execution. After all, the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment should trump ordinary laws passed by Congress.

Now, after being denied by the lower courts, Hill has one last possible savior -- the Supreme Court. The court is set to consider in September whether to hear his case, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Obviously, such considerations will be meaningless if he is executed on Monday, so the decision on whether to grant a stay will likely be based on the Court's interest in hearing the case and possibly modifying the AEDPA procedures, such as creation of the exception desired by the dissent in the Eleventh Circuit's denial.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court rarely grants such stays or reviews. Unless they have a burning desire to once-again address the much maligned AEDPA, Warren Lee Hill will be executed four days from now.

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