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On Eve of Warren Hill Execution, Coalition of Disability Advocates Calls for Change to Georgia Law
Proposed Changes Would Bar Executions for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Where: Capitol Exterior - Washington Street
What: A coalition of disability organizations will hold a press conference detailing their efforts to change the death penalty law in Georgia to prevent the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.
Why: Georgia requires a defendant to prove mental retardation (intellectual disability) beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the heaviest burden of proof in the law and Georgia is the only state in the nation that requires it at this level.
Warren Hill is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 19, but has an IQ of just 70. He is one of several on Georgia’s death row who meet the standard for intellectual disability in every state … except Georgia. He has experts and testing to support his claim.
Changes to the Law: The law would only take two small paragraphs to change our burden of proof and thus prohibit those with intellectual disabilities from being executed. The requested changes would allow for mental retardation to be established by the “preponderance of the evidence” instead of the current standard of “beyond reasonable doubt.”
· Rita Young, Director of Public Policy, All About Developmental Disabilities
· Eric Jacobson, Executive Director, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
Coalition Members: All About Developmental Disabilities, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, The ARC of Georgia, The Georgia Advocacy Office
· The U.S. Supreme Court -- in the landmark Atkins v. Virginia decision in 2002 -- found that persons with intellectual disabilities require a categorical exemption from the death penalty.
· People with intellectual disabilities experience many challenges when they come in contact with the judicial system. Often attorneys and others involved in the judicial process don’t even recognize that a person has a disability. Intellectual disabilities are rarely identified at the time of arrest, questioning or arraignment. In fact, only ten percent are identified even at trial.
· The diagnosis is often not identified until the person is in prison or on death row. This late identification of the disability can have dire outcomes, including death.
· In 1988, Georgia was the first state to prohibit the execution of persons with intellectual developmental disabilities, impelled by mass outrage at the execution of a mildly mentally retarded prisoner named Jerome Bowden in 1986.