The US Supreme Court declared that the death penalty for mentally retarded criminals was unconstitutional in 2002. Georgia, however, is set to execute a prisoner so labeled next week, reports the Guardian. The execution of Warren Hill is proceeding because Georgia, alone among the states, says that learning disabilities must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even though Hill was found by a Georgia court in 2002 to be “mentally retarded,” it was only by a lesser “a preponderance of the evidence” level. He’s got an IQ of about 70.
Ironically, Georgia was the first state to ban the death penalty for people with learning disabilities, but when it instituted that law in 1988, it also demanded the tougher standard. Hill was already serving a sentence of life imprisonment for killing his girlfriend when he killed another prisoner 1990 and received the death penalty. “We are heading into a constitutional crisis,” said Hill’s lawyer. “The Supreme Court banned executions of mentally retarded prisoners, but here we are in Georgia about to execute a man who is mentally retarded.” It’s set to take place Wednesday.