Monday, June 2, 2008

Execution Set for SC Offender with Severe Mental Illness

The State of South Carolina has scheduled the execution of David Hill, an inmate with severe mental illness who has decided to waive his appeals. Approximately 129 out of the 1,102 executions since 1977 have involved inmates who decided to forego any further appeals of their cases. A number of inmates have done so as a result of their severe mental illness (and many have changed their minds at the last minute).

In this case, David Hill had a history of mental illness before the commission of the crime, including several suicide attempts. He was sentenced to death in 2000 for the murder of three social workers in an office shooting in 1996. Hill is scheduled be executed on June 6, 2008.

Here's more information on the case from Amnesty International USA:

"Josie Curry, Michael Gregory and James Riddle were shot dead by David Hillin the office of the Department of Social Services (DSS) in North Augusta, South Carolina, on September 16, 1996. The next morning police found David Hill lying on railway tracks not far from the DSS building. He had shot himself in the head, but survived, with critical injuries.

David Hill was brought to trial in 2000. A doctor testified that although Hill had sustained frontal lobe damage to his brain when he shot himself, and was suffering from a degree of memory loss, he could understand the charges against him and would be able to follow the proceedings if he paid attention. Several experts testified that David Hill was suffering from serious mental health problems at the time of the crime, and was apparently not taking his medication on the day of the shootings. A psychiatrist who had been treating him in the months before the crime testified that Hill was suffering from three major mental disorders: post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and major depressive disorder. He stated that a number of traumatic events in Hill's life had contributed to this, including his near-drowning when he was a teenager, his guilt over causing a car accident when he was 18 which killed his sister, witnessing an explosion at his workplace, and the stress of his daughter being left paraplegic in a car accident in 1995 (she died in 1998).

David Hill made a number of suicide attempts in the months before the crime. In July 1996, police had been called to his home when he was threatening to kill himself with a shotgun. He was eventually talked out of it by his psychiatrist and taken for treatment for depression. The shootings at the DSS office took place about a week after his three-year-old daughter and his twin two-year-old sons had been taken into DSS custody.

The jury returned a death sentence and Hill's automatic appeal was rejected by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2004. In May 2007, David Hill wrote to the prosecuting authorities asking them to assist him to 'drop the rest of my appeals and have an execution date set.' The following month, he changed his mind, but in July 2007 again decided to abandon his appeals. A hearing was held before a judge in August 2007 to establish whether Hill was competent to make this decision. A psychiatrist testified that Hill had suffered from severe depression and other mental disorders in the past, but that these were now in remission and he was not currently on medication for any mental illness. She testified that although he had sustained brain damage and neurological impairments as a result of shooting himself in 1996, he had made a good recovery.

The psychiatrist testified that David Hill's decision to drop his appeals appeared to be rational, that he knew the consequences of his decision and even believed that he could win an appeal if he proceeded to challenge his death sentence. Hill had apparently decided to wait until his father, whose health was failing, would no longer be aware of his son's decision to waive his appeals. After the father was taken to hospital and placed on 'do not resuscitate' status, David Hill decided that he could now take the decision to expedite his own death. The psychiatrist also concluded that Hill's religious beliefs as a Mormon had contributed to his decision. Hill himself testified that 'part of my religious beliefs are that if you kill somebody, you shed somebody else's blood, that your blood has to be shed or you have to die in order to be forgiven for that, and that's one of my concerns and then there's some health issues that I'm dealing with that's...bothersome at times...There's not really one big reason. There is just -- several different factors.' The judge found that Hill was competent to waive his appeals, and this was upheld by the state Supreme Court on April 28, 2008."

The American Bar Association Recommendation on the Death Penalty and Persons with Mental Disabilities states that "If a court finds that a prisoner under sentence of death who wishes to forgo or terminate post-conviction proceedings has a mental disorder or disability that significantly impairs his or her capacity to make a rational decision, the court should permit a next friend acting on the prisoner’s behalf to initiate or pursue available remedies to set aside the conviction or death sentence."


kbandell said...

...if available,please publish Amnesty International's urgent action on this case....thank you and in peace....

Anonymous said...

I have suddenly found your blog very interesting and informative .You has done an effort to make your blog this type of informative. I also suffered a lot from this type of panic disorder, depression and lots of mental health problems. I used Xanax to get rid of all this things; it’s really works a lot.

Kristin Houle said...

The information presented here has been pulled directly from Amnesty International's Urgent Action on David Hill.

Those who wish to take action on this case can visit the Amnesty International USA website. Copy this link into your browser: or go to and click on death penalty under "Our Priorities."