Is a person making an intelligent decision to do harm? Often, this is a question for courts to decide.


Warren Lee Hill shot his 18-year old girlfriend 11 times and killed her. Four years after his conviction, Hill attacked his sleeping cellmate and bludgeoned him to death. Is Warren Lee Hill evil?

Hill's IQ is 70, which is defined generally as mentally disabled [source: Cohen]. "He consistently tested in the 2-3 percentile in childhood achievement and intelligence testing," wrote Dr. Thomas Sachy, a psychiatrist who evaluated him for the state of Georgia [source: Kammer]. In fact, all three doctors who originally evaluated him in 2000 and found him mentally competent reversed their decision in 2012. Is Warren Lee Hill evil?

A question like "do you have to be intelligent to be evil" can seem philosophical and vague, but it becomes less theoretical when you apply it to a death penalty court case like the one that has played out in Georgia. Must there be a conniving, Machiavellian mind behind evil, or is it something inherent in anyone -- or everyone?

In addition, if a person's intent is completely illogical, is that individual making an intelligent decision to do harm? This is one of the defenses of the insanity plea: It would be cruel and unusual to make someone pay for a crime that he or she simply didn't understand the implications of. For most of us, it makes sense to say that you must understand right from wrong to be held responsible for something evil. That's why, of course, most justice systems will be more lenient on juveniles.

But would a 9-year old who pushed a toddler into the deep end of the pool, pulled up a chair to watch him drown, and then showed no remorse after the killing demonstrate the guileless mind of a child or that of a shrewd juvenile [source: Kahn]?

In the next few pages, we'll explore evil and intelligence. And while we shouldn't expect any satisfying answers, we can ask ourselves if truly heinous actions infer a cunning mind. And that's probably a good place to start: Is cold, hard logic intelligence?