Legislative Hearing on Mental Disabilities and the Ga. Death Penalty

Georgia state capitol
Georgia state capitol
Credit Nick Nesmith/WABE News
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

Live tweets embedded at end of story.

At the State Capitol this morning, the Georgia House Judiciary Committee  (Non-Civil) held a hearing on mental disabilities and the state’s death penalty. [the meeting agenda has been posted online (PDF)]

Since 1986, Georgia law has said that a person cannot be executed in Georgia if they are judged “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be “mentally retarded.” The “beyond a reasonable standard” requirement is considered a very difficult legal standard to reach.  Other states use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which is not as legally exacting.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing people with mental retardation was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  

Questions about what constitutes being mentally retarded, as well as the appropriateness and consequences of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, were the main subjects of today’s hearings. 

These hearings have a particular bearing on the planned execution of Warren Lee Hill, Jr.  Hill has been convicted of killing a fellow inmate, but he has also been diagnosed as being mentally disabled.  His lawyers have filed numerous requests for hearings to delay his execution on this basis, all to no avail.

WABE’s Rose Scott (@waberosescott) and Michell Eloy (@michelleloy) were at the hearing and tweeted updates during the meeting.  The following is excerpted from their Twitter feeds.