In June of 2019, the Ohio House passed a billthat would end the use of the death penalty on individuals who suffer from severe mental illness. The bill received bipartisan support and is the result of a task force that reviewed the state’s administration of the death penalty.
Severe Mental Illness
Under the bill, severe mental illness includes conditions such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and delusional disorder. If an offender suffers from one of these conditions at the time they committed the crime, they could avoid the death penalty.
In Ohio, individuals who commit aggravated murder are subject to the death penalty. If a defendant argues that they suffered from a serious mental illness at the time of the aggravated murder, a court can order a psychological evaluation. If the person is ultimately found guilty of aggravated murder, they may be sentenced to life without parole instead of the death penalty if it is found that they had a serious mental illness at the time.
Opposition to the Bill
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association has been opposed to the bill. They believe that there are already safeguards in place to help people with mental illness or developmental disabilities from being subject to the death penalty. They believe that the bill would only help those whose mental illness is so minor that they failed to create reasonable doubt in the minds of a jury that they were not guilty by reason of insanity.
The bill is intended to be retroactive. This means that individuals who are currently on death row in Ohio can seek an evaluation regarding their mental health and have their sentence reduced to life without parole. There are currently 142 people on death row in Ohio. Ohio executions are currently on hold as officials search for a new means of administering the death penalty. A federal magistrate ruled that the old three-drug cocktail method was unconstitutional.
House Bill 136 now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.