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In 2011,  Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor created the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty in response to the overwhelming deficits that were outlined in the 2007 American Bar Association (ABA) report. The Task Force was comprised of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and academics. These experts met and discussed the many problems presented in the ABA report. After two years of review, the Task Force concluded its work in November of 2013 and subsequently published its findings in April of 2014. Among the 56 recommendations was this:

Enact legislation to consider and exclude from eligibility for the death penalty defendants who suffer from serious mental illness, as defined by the legislature, at the time of the crime.

Why Prohibit the Execution of Ohioans with Severe Mental Illnesses?

Official Position Statement of the Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption

We urge you to support House Bill 81, which would exclude individuals with serious mental illness from the death penalty just as individuals with intellectual disabilities and juveniles are currently exempted.

Specifically, the bill would exempt defendants from the death penalty who, at the time of the offense, had a serious mental illness that significantly impaired their capacity to (a) exercise rational judgment in relation to their conduct, (b) conform their conduct to the requirements of the law, or (c) appreciate the nature, consequences or wrongfulness of their conduct. Defendants would still be found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment

quoteWe believe that those who commit violent crimes while in the grip of a psychotic delusion, hallucination or other disabling psychological condition lack judgment, understanding or self-control. Until such time as the U.S. Supreme Court decides on this question, the responsibility for prohibiting the execution of such individuals in Ohio rests with the Ohio General Assembly.

The death penalty is not the answer to the problem of violence committed by persons with severe mental disorders. The better policy is access to appropriate mental health care – ideally before such a tragedy occurs – and, most definitely, in place of executing some of Ohio’s most critically ill individuals.

Polling indicates that 75% of the public opposes imposition of the death penalty on the seriously mentally ill. No less than juveniles or the mentally disabled, persons with serious mental illness lack the culpability normally associated with death penalty offenses even if they cannot meet the exacting standards of “not guilty by reason of insanity”—a defense which if proved, prohibits any punishment on the offender.

Please send a strong message to your legislators in the Ohio General Assembly that you agree by supporting this important and historic piece of legislation.The Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption calls on the Ohio General Assembly to follow recommendation eight of the Supreme Court Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty by enacting legislation to prohibit the execution of offenders with severe mental illness.

Legislation: S.B. 40


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…