Bill would exclude ‘documented mental health’ sufferers from death penalty

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Defendants diagnosed with a serious mental illness may soon be exempt from the death penalty.

The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 148 by a 75-16 vote Monday night.

Sponsored by Majority Whip Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, HB 148 would make defendants charged with a capital offense, such as murder, exempt from eligibility for execution if they have a documented history of a serious mental illness at the time of the offense.

“The five enumerated diseases are very serious,” McCoy said.

According to the bill, the defendant would have to have a documented history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder at the time of the offense to qualify for the exemption.

On the House floor, McCoy said the bill is not the same thing as an insanity defense, and defendants who have a serious mental illness could still be convicted of a capital offense and still go to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Kentucky law already allows those who have a serious intellectual disability, such as those with an IQ below 70, to be exempt from the death penalty.

If it were to become law, HB 148 would only apply to trials that occur after the effective date of the bill.

HB 148 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

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