Man With Intellectual Disabilities Faces Execution

52-year-old Warren Hill will be executed by lethal injection next Monday after he was denied clemency on July 16. In 1990, while Hill was serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend, Myra Wright, he beat fellow prison inmate Joseph Handspike to death with a nail-studded board and received a death sentence.

In 2002, Hill was officially deemed mentally retarded by a Georgia Court; the execution of those with mental retardation is banned by the US Supreme Court. In both of Hill’s trials, the juries had not been told that his IQ was about 70, that he grew up in a violent home and that he had shown signs of intellectual disabilities since he was young.

Despite the Supreme Court ban, Hill could still be executed tomorrow evening at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson under Georgia’s law that inmates seeking to avoid execution must prove byeond a reasonable doubt that they are mentally retarded. In the 2002 judgement, Hill was found to be mentally retarded according to a lesser standard, based on a “preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely than not,” says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Last week, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office said that Hill had failed to prove that he has intellectual disabilities.

Georgia was actually the first state in the US to ban the execution of those with intellectual disabilities, after the execution of Jerome Bowden, who was found to have an IQ of 65 just days before he was killed. But Georgia’s 1988 law also included the requirement of proving an inmate to be mentally retarded “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hill’s lawyers are now appealing to the US Supreme Court to reconsider reviewing his case and to stay the execution. Former President Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn and advocates for the developmentally disabled are pleading for mercy in Hill’s case. Rita Young, director of public policy for All About Developmental Disabilities in Decatur, has called for Hill instead to be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without parole. Other disability groups have “warned that Hill’s mild form of learning disabilities makes him particularly vulnerable to wrongful execution because their difficulties are not easily identified,” says the Guardian.

At the time he killed Handspike, Hill was also being held in a “shared prison dormitory and was coming under physical and sexual harassment from other inmates.” His lawyer, Brian Kammer, has emphasized that Hill’s killing of Handspike was “impulsive” and not intentional. Richard Handspike, nephew of Joseph Handspike, has said that his family does not think that Hill should be executed.

Time is running out for Hill and very, very quickly. As Andrew Rosenthal writes in the New York Times, Hill’s case shows why it is “impossible to administer [the death penalty] fairly and ethically.” Hill’s pending execution makes it too clear why, beyond a “reasonable doubt,” the death penalty in the US must be abolished.

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons


John McDonald
John McDonald5 years ago

Apparently, John P., the family is also talking 'that load of cobblers', "Richard Handspike, nephew of Joseph Handspike, has said that his family does not think that Hill should be executed."

Erin Kathleen
Erin Walden5 years ago

It is true this man took the lives of others, but if he was not mentally capable of logical unemotional decisions then he should not be put to death.
A great man once said "Better a 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man perish. I do not argue that he is guilty but rather his innocence is in his inability to make rational decision.

courtney j.
Courtney s5 years ago

completely agree with you, robert p.!!!
there are WAY too many people out there who will excuse/condone other people's obvious wrong/bad behavior, it never ceases to amaze me. whether he's "mentally challenged" or not does not make a difference in this case. all these people who feel sorry for him would probably not feel the same if their relative was beaten or killed by this man.

Bill C.
Bill C5 years ago

He got prison for his first murder

Since they do not leave boards with nails in them laying around prison he had to plan and make the weapon to have it. I believe thats shows intent and premeditation. I bet the weapon was also concealed as guards would likely shoot you if your a prisoner with a board and nail.

To hide something says you know it is wrong to have it and clears up that right wrong iaaue.

I realize the death penality must be used judicously and in this case there is no doubt of guilt. I also get if your against the punishment debate ends there, I respect the view just disagree

If you make and use Maxwells Silver Hammer....

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy5 years ago

Sad...this is very sad....maybe his hell is life....sometimes we have to look at the quality of life...should this man have been tested more carefully to see if he had any brain problems that cause these insane rages???? has he been...if not should be...however life can be hell...we sane people know that...

Billie C.
Billie C5 years ago

the man is not safe to be around other people. he kills inside and outside of prison. putting him to death is more kind than keeping him locked in a cell alone 24/7. he sure can't be out among other people. low or high iq some people are not able to live among others.

John Patrick
John Patrick5 years ago

I think that a lethal injection is too kind, let him be beaten to death, what a load of cobblers these 'do gooders' talk. Would they still say it if it was their daughter he had killed or their son that he beat to death. For goodness sake this is the real world!

Jessica L.
Janne O5 years ago

Robert P, I agree completely.

Bronwyn M.
Bronwyn Mackay5 years ago

Well put 'DaretoCare S', that is EXACTLY what people need to read, hear, know and REMEMBER!!! What Would Jesus DO??? This man is made in God's image and he possesses some of God within him . . . we cannot deny that and we cannot alter that FACT. To put to death a human being is to murder Christ all over again. This makes humanity NO BETTER than the Romans who crucified Jesus, or the Nazis who murdered millions of innocent Jews. NO, we have NO RIGHT at all to murder another human being and if perchance we have transgressed this 'taking of another's life', we have to make it right with our maker and if possible society (via genuine apology and repentance). God is THE JUDGE of all humankind, and He declares we must not take a life EVER EVER EVER!!!

David L.
David L.5 years ago

Robert P., as a person who has lived with a disability (Cerebral Palsy) my entire life, your disgusting rants sicken me. Did it ever occur to you that maybe he was being bullied and ganged upon by those who see him as weak and possibly a submissive? Maybe he did go too far, but I'm pretty sure he was only defending himself and he did not know his own strength, as is the case of many with low IQ's. I think a low IQ is a PERFECTLY SOUND REASON not to put this man to death. I may not be a bleeding heart, but I am what they would call a smart liberal. I would not complain about Hill being put into solitary confinement. In fact, if that were me, I'd be almost welcome to the idea.

"There are lots of people out there with low IQ's who do not act in such a brutal matter." Perhaps there are, but unless you have any of these individuals in your family or circle of friends, or have worked with persons with disabilities (I doubt you have), you have no place to say these kinds of assumptions. It says that he grew up in a violent home, but that doesn't mean he's prone to violence for the sake of violence all the time. How would he be a threat to other people in the mental hospital? Like I suggested earlier, maybe his girlfriend was abusing and bullying him, and he may not have had the strength to leave, and was defending himself against Handspike.

To put this man to death would be an act of inhumanity. Maybe you should check out "the Green Mile." It might help you put som