Legislation Prohibiting Death Penalty for Mentally Ill Offenders Backed by Senate Judiciary Committe

Mar 1, 2018

Credit Alexey Stiop, 123rf stock photo

Legislation to prohibit capital punishment for people suffering from severe mental illness is expected to go before the full Kentucky Senate.

Current law prohibits execution of anyone with significant intellectual challenges. The measure is not retroactive to current death row inmates.

Judiciary Committee Member Will Shroder would like to examine that further.

“Regardless of how the law interprets it, I think that is something that I think we would have to wrestle with,” said Shroder. “Is it fair that someone could be on death row for something that happened two years ago, but then today if they committed that crime they wouldn’t be on death row, if they had one of those conditions such as schizophrenia?”

Michael Gray with Kentucky’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the determination would be made by a judge.

“There’s a motion by the defense. They present evidence of mental illness at the time of the offense. The commonwealth, prosecution may rebut and then the court makes the decision, based on that evidence,” said Gray.

Bill sponsor Julie Raque Adams told committee members a serious mental illness doesn’t include a disorder manifested primarily by repeated criminal conduct or attributed solely to the acute effects of the voluntary use of alcohol or other drugs.

“I’m actually optimistic that we can get this on, we can pass this on the floor pretty soon,” said Raque Adams

Raque Adams said there has been an effort in the Kentucky House to push for similar legislation.