WRAL-TV reports, "House to vote on execution ban for mentally disabled," by Laura Leslie.
State House lawmakers are expected to vote next week on a bill that would let judges take the death penalty off the table for capital defendants with severe mental disability.
The measure, House Bill 722, won approval from the House Judiciary B subcommittee Wednesday evening. It sets up a very specific definition for "severe mental disability" involving a history of problems, an inability to understand the the wrongness of the crime, or to exercise rational judgment.
The accused would have to present "clear and convincing evidence" of the disability, and could not use the defense for a crime committed under voluntary intoxication, even if habitual.
A judge would be allowed to decide at a pre-trial hearing whether a defendant meets the criteria. If the judge agreed, the death penalty couldn't be sought, but the defendant wouldn't be able to raise the insanity defense at trial.
The measure also provides for retroactive application through Motions for Appropriate Relief for those already on death row.
Sponsor Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said the issue of executing the mentally disabled is "nothing new," quoting 18th century legal scholar William Blackstone: "A madman shall be punished by his madness alone."
"You don't deter crime by punishing those that everybody knows can't be deterred - the people who are clearly mentally disabled or deficient," he said in committee.
In 2010, North Carolina legislators considered similar legislation; more at the link.