Georgia man's execution halted by federal appeals court - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgia man's execution halted by federal appeals court

DAWSON, GA (WALB) -

A killer, condemned to die for a South Georgia murder, is still alive Tuesday night.

A federal appeals court granted a stay of execution less than an hour before Warren Hill was scheduled to be executed.

The defense says Hill shouldn't be put to death because he's mentally disabled.

Death penalty opponents say this case highlights problems with Georgia's death penalty rules.

Several demonstrators hit the streets in Dawson, Tuesday, to show their disgust with the Death Penalty.

"Georgia is blood thirsty and is trying to set a precedence of executing people at all cost," said Terrell County NAACP Chapter President Rev. Ezekiel Holley.

They were out on the behalf of Warren Lee Hill.

He's on death row for the brutal 1990 beating death of cellmate Joseph Handspike in Lee State Prison.

Hill was serving a life sentence at the time for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was shot 11 times.

"The last word will be done by God, so vengeance belongs to God. By taking one's life, it makes us just as guilty as Mr. Hill taking someone's life," said Holley.

A federal appeals court stayed the execution because the state's own expert doctors now say Hill is mentally retarded, but proving a defendant is mentally disabled is harder in Georgia than other states.

"The Georgia Supreme Court in kind of a complete reversal of all other Jurisprudence that I've seen in the criminal justice area has ruled the defendant has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is mentally retard in order to avoid execution," said Attorney James Finkelstein.

Finkelstein says when jurors hear from experts on both sides, they're more likely to rule for the state.

"If all 12 jurors say I'm 85% sure that this guy is mentally retarded as defined by the law, but I'm not 95% sure, which is what I need to be to be where I feel like the defendant has proved it beyond reasonable doubt," said  Finkelstein.

As for the protestors, they want to see a change in the state's death penalty.

"It would be the right thing to do to abolish the death penalty because it's not just and it's not fair," said Holley.

They hope it can spare the lives of other that may find themselves in Hill's situation.

Reverend Holley wanted to make it clear that Hill should be punished for his actions. He believes Hill should spend the rest of his life in prison, but he says putting someone to death is not man's responsibility.

Georgia is the only state that requires defendants to prove mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.

The US Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person.

 

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