A Fulton County judge on Thursday kept in place a stay of execution for condemned killer Warren Hill, expressing concern that a new state law that shields from public view the identities of those who make and supply Georgia’s lethal injection drugs is unconstitutional.
Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan said the law does not allow Hill to raise a meaningful challenge that his execution could cause needless suffering because he does not know the source of the drugs being used to kill him or the qualifications of the pharmacy that compounds them.
After Tusan announced her decision, she allowed lawyers from the state Attorney General’s office to immediately appeal her ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. If the state high court overturns Tusan’s injunction, it remains possible that Hill could still be put to death by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Friday.
Brian Kammer, one of Hill’s lawyers, said he hopes the state Supreme Court upholds Tusan’s decision.
“I’m extremely pleased,” he said. “It’s a very well-written and well-thought-out order.”
Tusan read her order from the bench after a hearing that began early Thursday morning and stretched into the afternoon. She said Hill’s challenge could prevail on separation of powers, access to the courts and First Amendment grounds.
The public has an interest in information regarding the execution of Georgia citizens, Tusan said.
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.
Georgia, like other death penalty states, has found it virtually impossible to secure execution drugs from the mass manufacturers who are under pressure from death penalty opponents and shareholders. So the state opted to use compounding pharmacies to make individual doses of the powerful barbiturate pentobarbital. This past Legislature, the General Assembly passed the state law, which took effect July 1, making the identities of the providers of lethal injection drugs a state secret.
If Hill is executed this week, it will be the first time Georgia has used a compounded drug.