Mentally Retarded Man Granted Last-Minute Stay of Execution in Georgia

Warren Lee Hill (pictured) was already serving a life sentence for one murder when he was convicted of murdering another inmate in 1990 and sentenced to death. Since that second conviction, three forensic psychiatrists who initially said Hill was mentally fit for execution have recanted their original testimonies, saying that they were inadequately prepared before and are now certain Hill is mentally retarded.

If Hill, who has an IQ around 70, is in fact retarded, he is ineligible for the death penalty, according to a 2002 Supreme Court ruling. Nevertheless, Georgia was planning on executing Hill tonight at 7:00 PM EST anyway, until a last-minute stay from an 11th circuit federal appeals court came in. How last-minute? Hill had already taken a the sedative to relax himself for the gurney.

The court agreed to consider the issue of his intellectual disabilities in the light of a 2002 US supreme court ruling that prohibits executions of "mentally retarded" prisoners as a breach of the constitutional safeguard against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hill's stay is only temporary, of course, but his supporters, who include former President Jimmy Carter, hope the court will commute Hill's sentence to life in prison.