Court to hear Warren Hill appeal

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the state’s appeal of a recent order that stopped the execution of condemned killer Warren Hill.

Last month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan halted Hill’s execution, expressing concern about a new state law that keeps secret the identities of those who make and supply Georgia’s lethal injection drugs. The state appealed that decision.

Hill sits on death row for beating another inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death with a nail-studded board in 1990 at the state prison in Leesburg. At the time, Hill was serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of his former girlfriend.

Hill’s lawyers contend their client is mentally retarded and ineligible for execution. They cite recent testimony by former state experts who initially testified Hill was not mentally disabled but who now say he is. But Tusan’s order did not address this issue, only the constitutionality of the new secrecy law.

In agreeing unanimously to hear the appeal, the state Supreme Court asked lawyers for Hill and the state to address four questions:

  • Is the issue moot now that the state’s current supply of pentobarbital has expired and it’s unclear how the state would obtain a new supply of lethal-injection drugs?
  • Did Tusan have the authority to issue the stay of execution?
  • Could the question as to whether the new secrecy law is constitutional be avoided if Hill were given a sample of the drug for testing or given other information the law does not prohibit?
  • Did Tusan make a mistake by issuing the stay based on Hill’s challenge to the new state secrecy law?

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