UPDATE: Kentucky lawmakers vote to put limits on death penalty

The bill bans the use of the death penalty for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses

Story update from March 25, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky would make the death penalty off-limits for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses under a bill that won final legislative approval on Friday.

The Republican-led Senate voted 25-9 to send the measure to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, capping a long effort led by death penalty opponents to put limits on the use of capital punishment.

Under the bill, the death penalty ban would apply to defendants with a documented history — including a diagnosis from a mental health professional — of certain mental disorders and who had active symptoms at the time of the offense. The disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.

“It in no way absolves defendants of legal responsibilities for their crimes,” Republican Sen. Julie Raque Adams said in presenting the measure. “They can still be tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including life without parole.”

The bill would not be applied retroactively to the 26 prisoners now on Kentucky’s Death Row.

In opposing the measure, Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer portrayed it as a “slippery slope for getting rid of the death penalty.”

“And maybe that’s the way public opinion is going and that’s too bad,” he said.

Last year, similar legislation passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Since then, the bill’s leading supporters consulted key senators in crafting the revised version now headed to the governor.

 

Original story below from March 17, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky Senate panel on Thursday advanced a bill that would ban the use of the death penalty for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses.

The measure sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with no resistance. If the full Senate passes the bill without changes, the measure would go to Gov. Andy Beshear. It won House passage by a wide margin last month. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

Last year, a similar bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Since then, the bill’s leading supporters consulted key senators as the new version was crafted.

Under this year’s bill, the death penalty ban would apply to defendants with a documented history — including a diagnosis from a mental health professional — of certain mental disorders and who had active symptoms at the time of the offense. The disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going free,” said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill’s lead sponsor. “It doesn’t mean they’re not getting punished. It just means it’s going to be life in prison without parole.”

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll thanked the bill’s sponsors for the revisions.

“In the past years when we’ve had this bill, my concern has always been the state of mind (of the defendant) at the time the crime occurs,” he said. “I think you all have addressed that.”

The last execution in Kentucky was in 2008.

 

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