"Group wants to exclude severely mentally ill from death penalty," is by Alan Johnson for the Columbus Dispatch.
People suffering from severe mental illness who commit murder should be excluded from the death penalty, a state task force studying capital punishment recommended yesterday.
The task force doesn’t want people with severe mental illness to go unpunished. But the panel will urge the General Assembly to pass a law preventing a death sentence from being handed down on someone with a diagnosable, severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, at the time he or she commits the crime.
The Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty is a creation of the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association.
Despite yesterday’s recommendation, there is a deep divide among task force members about what constitutes serious mental illness and whether the current legal system does an adequate job of screening for it.
Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, said such action is long overdue. He began advocating for a mental-illness exclusion in 1999 when Wilford Berry, who struggled with serious mental illness his entire life, became the first Ohioan to be executed in 36 years.
“We knew this man was severely mentally disabled,” Russell said. “It is inhumane to execute someone like that.”
AP coverage is, "Panel: Weigh mental state in capital cases," by Andrew Welsh-Huggins. It's via the Martins Ferry Times Leader.
Lawmakers should debate taking the death penalty off the table for killers with serious mental illness even before they're charged, under a recommendation approved Thursday by a committee examining capital punishment in the state.
Mental illness has long been a factor in deciding whether someone should be executed in Ohio, but the new proposal deals with eliminating it as an option upfront.
The proposal, approved 15-2 by the Ohio Supreme Court task force, recommends that lawmakers take up the question once the committee issues its final report early next year.
Cleveland appeals court Judge Kathleen Keough called it "an issue of common decency."
"A person suffering from serious mental illness should not be subject to the death penalty," Keough said.
The concept is a long way from becoming law. The recommendation first would need legislation, and that would be followed by a long debate in the General Assembly over the definition of serious mental illness.
Cleveland defense attorney John Parker, chairman of the subcommittee that made the mental illness recommendation, said members of his committee felt it was time to put the issue before lawmakers.
Many members of the task force, which includes defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and lawmakers, were skeptical of the concept but agreed to recommend its consideration.
More information is at the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty website.