Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Study group to address intellectual disabilities in Georgia’s death penalty cases

Published October 30, 2015

SMYRNA—A “teach-in” session on the standard of proof for intellectual disability in death penalty cases in Georgia will be offered on Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 7-9 p.m. The event, sponsored by the archdiocesan Disabilities Ministry and the PAPE (Proof to a Preponderance of the Evidence) Project, will be held at the Chancery, 2401 Lake Park Drive, SE, Smyrna. Doors will open at 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Georgia is the only state in the U.S. that uses the most difficult standard of proof in order to meet the legal standard of intellectual disability in death penalty cases “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard is a fairly challenging legal obstacle to overcome, and Georgia is an outlier in requiring it. Of the 33 states that still have the death penalty, 22 states use the standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”

Because of Georgia’s incredibly high standard of proof, the state continues to execute people with developmental disabilities, including Warren Lee Hill, who was executed on Jan. 27. Had Hill been convicted of the same crime in any other state, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

The PAPE Project is a coalition led by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty. The group will be advocating for a bill during the 2016 legislative session that will change the current standard of proof to the “preponderance of the evidence” in death penalty cases involving people with intellectual disabilities.

This information session is offered to all, but is encouraged for those with a direct connection to the project. Because people with intellectual disabilities are highly vulnerable in the current state of Georgia’s criminal justice system, especially with the death penalty, people with disabilities, family members and other disability advocates are asked to attend, including those who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system and those who are interested in criminal justice reform.

An overview of the topic will be provided, as well as an outline of the advocacy work crucial to move this significant piece of legislation forward and put Georgia back on the right side of history.

Attendance is free, but registration is requested. To attend on Nov. 10, visit this website to register.

For more information, contact Maggie Rousseau, director of Disabilities Ministry, at