American courts long have held that the death penalty is unjust for people who weren’t adults or were developmentally disabled when they committed their crimes. Execution is no fairer for people who commit crimes while they are severely mentally ill.
House Bill 81 would give lawyers for a small subset of the most severely mentally ill defendants a chance to argue that their clients should be exempt from execution. This reasonable law has been parked in the House Criminal Justice Committee since May. It deserves consideration.
Taking the death penalty off the table for those with severe mental illness was a key recommendation of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Death Penalty Task Force, a panel of judges, lawyers and policymakers who spent hundreds of hours examining the fairness of Ohio’s death penalty. Only a handful of the 56 recommendations, issued in 2014, have been carried out. That reflects poorly on lawmakers who are more concerned with looking tough on crime than ensuring justice.
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