January 27, 2015
Warren Lee Hill was executed at 7:55 pm EST, on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. Warren was convicted of murdering his cellmate, Joseph Handspike, on August 17, 1990, at the Lee Correction Institute in Leesburg, Georgia. Warren spent the last 28 years of his life in prison, with the last 23 years being on Georgia’s death row.
During his trial, Warren was described by his family as being the “leader of the family.” From a young age, Warren took care of the family by providing food, clothing, and parental guidance to the younger children. High-school friends described Warren as “bright,” “sharp,” “mature,” and “level-headed.” Following his high school graduation, Warren joined the navy rising to the rank of Seaman Second Class.
On May 30, 1985, the then 26-year-old Warren murdered his 18-year-old girlfriend Myra Wright, by shooting her 11 times. Warren convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. While in prison, Warren was tested and classified as having average intelligence or better, which allowed him to be transferred to Lee Correction Institute in 1989. While at Lee Correction Institute, Warren received “skilled and semiskilled training and an average degree of work and responsibility.”
Warren Hill was assigned Joseph Handspike as his cellmate at Lee Correction Institute. Both men were incarcerated for murder. On August 17, 1990, Hill attacked Handspike with a “2x6 board that had been trimmed down to a leg.” The board had been a support for a sink in the bathroom in the wing where Hill was located. According to eyewitness testimony, there were nails protruding from the end of the board and Hill looked like he was “chopping wood with an axe.”
Around 5:10 am, a guard heard noises and went to investigate. The guard saw Hill brutally attacking Handspike and immediately called for back up. Once it arrived, they entered the cell and demanded that Hill surrender his weapon. The injuries to Handspike were fatal. Handspike and lost several teeth and his left eye was detached from the socket. His upper body and face were badly beaten and blood was pouring from his mouth. Attempts were made to save his life, but they were unsuccessful and Handspike died approximately one hour after being transported to a hospital.
Hill was convicted by a jury on July 21, 1991, and sentenced to death on August 2, 1991. During Hill’s trial evidence was presented that showed Hill having a below average intelligence, opposite of how he had tested a few years earlier. Evidence was also presented which showed organic brain damage. Clinical psychologist, Dr. William Dickinson testified that Hill was mentally competent to stand trial for murder and they he knew the difference between right and wrong. Hill also had a history of violent assaults inside and outside of prison.
An execution date for Hill always sparks intense debate. There are many who believe Hill lacks the mental competency required for execution. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that no one can be executed who is mentally incompetent, however, it is up to each individual state to set the standards for mentally competency. The legal definition and medical definition for mentally competency are different. According to the legal definition, an inmate is mentally competent so long as they understand why they are being executed. Georgia has the toughest standards, requiring the defense to prove “beyond a responsible doubt” that the inmate is mentally incompetent.
Warren Hill has had several previous execution dates. Several of those dates were stayed due to questions over his competency.
Please pray for peace and healing for the families of Myra Wright and Joseph Handspike. Please pray for strength for the family of Warren.