Judge declines to reconsider case of Georgia death row inmate

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ATLANTA — A state court judge on Monday declined to reconsider the case of a Georgia death row inmate set for execution today.

Judge Thomas Wilson on Monday declined to consider a request for habeas relief for Warren Lee Hill.

Hill’s lawyer Brian Kam­mer on Friday had asked the judge to reconsider the case in light of new evidence. He has long argued that Hill is mentally disabled and should not be put to death.

The state has consistently argued that Hill’s defense has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is mentally disabled. Hill’s lawyers have said that burden of proof is virtually impossible to meet. Georgia’s strictest-in-the-nation standard for proving mental disability has repeatedly been upheld.

Hill was sentenced to death in Lee County for the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike. At the time Hill was serving a life sentence for murder in the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend.
In his filings Friday, Kam­mer included statements from three doctors who examined Hill in 2000 and testified that he was not mentally disabled. The doctors write that they were rushed in their evaluation at the time and have acquired additional experience and there have been scientific developments in the 12 years since.

They reviewed facts and documents in the case and write that they now believe Hill is mentally disabled.

The state argues that the claims for habeas relief should be barred because Georgia law requires that any claims not made in the initial petition should be barred from review, and this is Hill’s third such request.

The state also argues that the “new evidence” – the doctors’ statements – is not credible. These doctors met with Hill and reviewed extensive documentation in 2000, and they haven’t seen him since and didn’t have new information, the state argues. The judge agreed, writing that the new petition is procedurally barred and that the “new evidence” does not establish a miscarriage of justice.

Kammer has also asked the state Board of Pardons and Paroles for a new hearing and has filed a motion to stay the execution with the U.S. Supreme Court. He and other defense lawyers for Hill and two other death row inmates are also seeking a court order that would prevent the state from using the drug pentobarbital to execute them without a doctor’s prescription.


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