2 Executions Halted in Georgia at Last Minute; Doctors Change Mind Over Mental State of Inmate

Two executions have been halted in Georgia in a temporary last minute reprieve. In one case doctors reportedly changing their minds about the mental state of the death row inmate; they now believe that he is mentally disabled.

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(Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Wikimedia Commons)The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California is seen in this 2010 file photo.

The court issued a stay of execution less than an hour before Warren Lee Hill was scheduled to have his death sentence carried out, in a dramatic temporary turnaround.

Following the doctors' new revelations the judges voted 2-1 to carry out further review into the death row inmate, and halted his impending execution by lethal injection.

However, Hill still faces a struggle to avoid the death penalty and some analysts believe this is simply another postponement.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center has said, according to The Associated Press, "If this were easy, it would have been picked off months ago and not at 6:30 (Tuesday) night. The fact that it was so late, I think, means that it's going to be a hard fight. But the 11th Circuit said at least there's some way that he could still prevail."

However, Hill was just one of two Georgia inmates who were scheduled to die this week under death penalty. Death row inmate Andrew Cook, who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday, also was given a reprieve.

Attorneys for both inmates had argued in the Georgia Court of Appeals that it was illegal for the state to use pentobarbital in executions without prescription.

Hill was given a death sentence for beating to death fellow inmate Joseph Handspike in 1990. Authorities claimed Hill bludgeoned Handspike to death with a board studded with nails in while he was sleeping.

Hill was already in prison serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend in 1986; he shot Myra Wright 11 times in a brutal killing.