ATLANTA — The Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled against a death row inmate who accused prison officials of violating state procedures by failing to hold a public notice hearing before changing the state’s execution procedure.
In a ruling released Monday, the court ruled that the decision to replace a three-drug cocktail with one drug for executions is not subject to the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act, so it does not require public hearings before making the change.
With Monday’s unanimous decision, the high court lifted the stay of execution it granted last July to Warren Lee Hill hours before he was to die by lethal injection for the 1990 killing of a prison inmate.
Hill was set to be executed July 18. The day before, the Department of Corrections announced the change in its execution protocol and delayed Hill’s execution until July 23.
Hill’s lawyers challenged the new execution protocol. They said the change was not preceded by a 30-day notice period as required by the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act -- meaning the new method is invalid.
State lawyers countered that the injection protocol is part of the Department of Corrections’ standing operating procedures that can be changed by the department commissioner without additional steps.
A few hours before Hill was to be executed, the Georgia Supreme Court stayed the execution so it could determine whether corrections officials broke the law.
Hill was convicted in the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike.
He “removed a two-by-six board embedded with nails that served as a sink leg in the prison bathroom and, as Handspike slept, pounded him in his head and chest with the board as onlooking prisoners pleaded with him to stop,” Monday’s Supreme Court ruling states.