Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Georgia’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for determining intellectual disability has led to an absurd — and arbitrary — result. A Georgia state court held that defendant Warren Hill was intellectually disabled, yet still sentenced Hill to death. Seven experts — and the court — deemed Hill disabled under a preponderance of the evidence standard. He remains on death row, however, because Georgia’s “preposterous burden of proof” requires that intellectual disability be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard experts have said is nearly impossible to satisfy. It “effectively limits the constitutional right protected in Atkins,” and creates a conditional, not categorical, ban. It also highlights a deeper problem: the process for determining who faces execution resides in an abyss of arbitrariness where death is not “different,” and “individualized consideration” is illusory.