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Stay of execution issued by Georgia judge in Warren Lee Hill case

Warren Lee Hill

Warren Lee Hill

ATLANTA — A temporary stay of execution was issued Thursday for twice-convicted killer Warren Lee Hill.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan issued the injunction Thursday afternoon, officials said. That put on hold the planned execution of Hill, which was set for 7 p.m. today.

An official with the Attorney General’s Office said an appeal had not yet been filed Thursday afternoon. “We have not filed anything yet,” she said.

At the Thursday hearing, Hill’s attorneys argued the constitutionality of a Georgia law that blocks information on the source and manufacture of Pentobarbital, the lethal drug used in executions in Georgia.

A state law that went into effect July 1 shields information regarding the suppliers of the drug to prevent anti-death penalty advocates from protesting or taking other action against a manufacturer.

Tusan, in granting the stay, said Hill had “a substantial likelihood of success” with his contention that the shield law was unconstitutional.

In part, Thursday’s injunction read:

“Pursuant to (the July 1 law) various identifying information pertaining to the drugs used in lethal injection executions is classified as ‘confidential state secrets,’ and shielded from any disclosure pursuant to ‘judicial process.’ Based on that provision, (the law) explicitly exempts from judicial review the very information that would be necessary for a court to determine the constitutionality on an inmate’s execution. Such a determination is precisely the role of the judiciary under the Georgia Constitution. By removing the courts’ independent interpretative authority regarding the constitutionality of aspects of the execution process, the General Assembly has impermissibly denied the judiciary its constitutionally guaranteed position as ‘the final and common arbiter.’”

Hill’s attorneys also argue that Hill is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution U.S. Supreme Court rulings. So far, the state’s position has been upheld in those challenges.

If the execution is not carried out by noon Saturday, Hill’s current death warrant, which was issued July 3 by the Lee County Superior Court, will expire.

Hill was incarcerated at Lee Correctional Institute (now Lee State Prison) near Leesburg in August 1990 when he killed fellow inmate Joseph Handspike in a violent altercation. Hill was serving a life sentence for murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend, Myra Wright, in 1986 by shooting her 11 times.

According to information posted on the Attorney General’s website, a Lee C.I. guard heard noises in wing C of the facility and found Hill beating Handspike with a board. Inmates who witnessed the attack, the summary said, testified it looked similar to someone “chopping wood with an axe.” During the attack, inmates quoted Hill as saying, “You ain’t bad,” or “You ain’t bad now.”

Handspike was was bleeding profusely from his wounds, several teeth were knocked out and his left eye was detached from the socket. Still conscious, he attempted to raise himself and speak to the correctional officer, but was unable to, with blood pouring from his mouth.

Following the attack, handspike was taken to a hospital, where an emergency room doctor attempted to save his life for approximately one hour and 15 minutes. He was pronounced dead from blunt head trauma.

Hill was indicted in Lee County Superior Court on Jan. 22, 1991, for malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. On July 31, 1991, following a jury trial, he was convicted of the charges and the jury’s recommendation of a death sentence was returned on Aug. 2, 1991.