Georgia prisoner faces execution Tuesday, despite claim of mental retardation

A Georgia death row inmate is scheduled to be executed Tuesday night despite pleas from his lawyers that he is mentally handicapped and should be spared.

Warren Lee Hill, who has an IQ of roughly 70, is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the 1990 murder of fellow Georgia state prison inmate Joseph Handspike.

CNN reports that Handspike died after being beaten with a nail-studded board while Hill was already serving a life sentence for the 1985 killing of his girlfriend, Myra Wright.

Hill's lawyers have appealed the scheduled execution after three doctors who originally examined Hill have reversed their original decision that he is not mentally handicapped.

Doctors Donald Harris, Thomas Sachy and James Gary Carter examined Hill in December 2000 and found him to be “borderline intellectual functioning,” not mentally retarded, reports the Atlanta Black Star.

At the time, the doctors noted that Hill served in the Navy, managed his money and served as a father figure to his siblings, reports Reuters.

But all three doctors have reversed their diagnosis because it was “extremely and unusually rushed” and “not conducive to an accurate assessment of Mr. Hill’s condition.”

"There is now unanimous consensus among all experts who have evaluated Mr. Hill over the last 22 years," Hill's lawyer Brian Kammer told Reuters. "Mr. Hill should be deemed to have met Georgia's uniquely stringent burden of proof for proving mental retardation."

A 2002 court decision bans the execution of the mentally retarded but leaves it up to the states to decide who qualifies. Georgia law makes it very difficult for a consensus on who meets the qualifications of mentally handicapped.

It requires inamtes to prove mental imaprement "beyond a resasonable doubt", which Hill's lawyers call "a virtually insurmountable barrier", reports CNN.

"The U.S. Supreme Court says we don't put mentally retarded people to death, but we'll let the states determine who's retarded and who's not," CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said Monday.

Hill's execution was originally scheduled for last summer but was delayed after Georgia switched the drugs that it uses for lethal injections.