When: 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thursday, October 24, 2013
Where: Georgia State Capitol, Room 132 CAP
What: The Georgia House of Representative Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will hold a Study Group on Oct. 24 regarding changes to Georgia’s death penalty law that would prevent the execution of those with intellectual disabilities, commonly referred to as mental retardation.
The committee will hear from disability advocate groups and other parties on the “narrow issue of the burden of proof requirement for determining mental retardation as it relates to the administration of the death penalty pursuant to Georgia law. (See OCGA 17-7-131).”
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.
The Supreme Court of the United States recently denied an appeal by attorneys for Warren Hill, a Georgia death row prisoner. Attorneys say that Mr. Hill’s intellectual disability makes him ineligible for the death penalty under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Akins v. Virginia, which banned capital punishment for persons with “mental retardation,” now known as intellectual disability.
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.”
Death Penalty Survey Data: The results of a recent survey of Georgians, detailing their opinions on the death penalty and people with disabilities, shows Georgians favor changing the state’s death penalty law to prevent the execution of people with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation).
Coalition Members: All About Developmental Disabilities, Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, The ARC of Georgia, The Georgia Advocacy Office