SB 40 – Avoid death penalty if serious mental illness at time of crime (2017-2018)
To amend sections 2929.02, 2929.022, 2929.024, 2929.03, 2929.04, 2929.06, 2953.21, and 2953.23 and to enact section 2929.025 of the Revised Code to provide that a person convicted of aggravated murder who shows that the person had a serious mental illness at the time of committing the offense cannot be sentenced to death for the offense and to provide a mechanism for resentencing to a life sentence a person previously sentenced to death who proves that the person had a serious mental illness at the time of committing the offense.
Link to Bill:https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-SB-40
This bill would prohibit any individual who had a specific serious mental illness at the time of committing an offense from being sentenced to death for that offense. Instead, that individual would get a restructured life sentence or 30-year sentence.
An estimated 5-10% of individuals on death row would be eligible under this bill and would have one year to file for post-conviction relief. The included serious mental illnesses are: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and delusional disorder.
Primary Sponsors:Sen. Eklund (R), Sen. Williams (D)
Secondary Sponsors:Sen. Brown, Sen. Coley, Sen. LaRose, Sen. Schiavoni, Sen. Terhar, Sen. Thomas, Sen. Yuko
Committee:Criminal Justice (H)
Companion Bill:HB 81: Prohibit death sentence if have serious mental illness
LSC Legislation Status:https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA132-SB-40
Our take on this bill:
The ACLU of Ohio supports this bill and its companion, HB 81. The ACLU is vehemently against the death penalty, and any legislation that limits the scope of this “cruel and unusual” punishment should be enacted.
Mental illness—especially the severe mental illnesses relevant to this legislation—should be a mitigating factor when it comes to sentencing. Juries, however, often do not vote consistent with this standard during capital sentencing proceedings. This bill would allow individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or delusional disorder at the time they committed the offense to receive a fair sentence that takes their impaired mental health into consideration.
This bill would apply only to a small fraction of cases. The bar for these severe mental illnesses is very high and would not be prone to abuse. If a defendant had a severe mental illness at the time they committed their offense, they do not deserve to be executed.
Introduced in the Senate on 2/8/17
Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 2/15/17
Received Committee hearings on 2/21/17, 2/28/17, and 3/7/17