A state task force today voted to recommend that the state legislature pass a law excluding the severely mental ill from the death penalty in murder cases.
The Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty, a creation of the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association, wants the General Assembly to hold hearings and pass a law to prevent people who have a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, at the time of the crime from facing the death penalty. The aim is not to stop them from being prosecuted, however.
Despite the vote, 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.
"I don't want everyone with ADHD or some real or imaginary disability to avoid responsibility," said state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, a task force member who voted for the proposal but with reservations.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said the court system screens out the seriously mentally ill through the trial and appeal process. "We are producing more and more layers of litigation in capital cases that I think are unnecessary."
John Parker, a Cleveland attorney whose subcommittee recommended the exclusion, reasoned that the legislature, not the task force, is best equipped to decide what he admitted will be a contentious issue after hearing from law enforcement, prosecutors, the public defender, mental health experts and others.
Judge Kathleen Keough of the Cleveland Court of Appeals said walling off the seriously mentally ill from the possibility of being executed is "a matter of common decency." She said the federal courts have ruled that the mentally retarded and juveniles cannot be executed and people with severe mental illness should be considered similarly. "Mental illness is not a choice," she said....
The task force was motivated to make the proposal by former Ohio Supreme Court Judge Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a longtime advocate for the mentally ill, who recommended when she was on the court two years ago that the "time had come to re-examine whether we as a society should administer the death penalty to a person with a serious mental illness."
The task force, which convened nearly two years ago, will wrap up its meetings in November and begin drafting a final report to the governor and state legislators to be submitted next year.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Ohio DP Task Force recommends excluding those with "serious mental illness" from capital punishment [feedly]
Ohio DP Task Force recommends excluding those with "serious mental illness" from capital punishment
As reported in this local article, which is headlined "Group wants law excluding severely mentally ill from death penalty," Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty (of which I am a member) endorsed a significant recommendation with respect to mental illness and the administration of the death penalty. Here are the basics: