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Eliminate Death Penalty Option for Seriously Mentally Ill

Senate Bill 40, as introduced by Senator John Eklund (R) of Portage County, and portions of both Geauga and Lake Counties and Senator Sandra Williams (D) from Cuyahoga County as well at its associated bill in the House (House Bill 81) introduced by Representative Bill Seitz (R) and Representative Nickie Antonio (D) would make it impossible for criminal defendants with severe mental illnesses to be eligible for the death penalty. The illnesses listed within the bills are schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and delusional disorder. These bills are the step in right direction towards a fair criminal justice system.

Ohio’s track record with fair and equitable application of the death penalty is abysmal. In 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) found that Ohio failed to meet 93% of their standards for a fair and accurate state death penalty system.

The creation of these bills stems from a recommendation given by the 2011 Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty that called to end executions of the mentally ill. The task force was assembled in response to the ABA’s critique of Ohio’s death penalty system. This group was formed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and consisted of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other criminal justice professionals. Of their 56 recommendations, the state of Ohio has implemented only 4 into law.

The treatment of the mentally ill within Ohio’s criminal justice system has been a hotly debated issue. Click here to read opposing viewpoints on the issue by Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the ACLU of Ohio, and John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

SB 40 was referred on February 15th to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Hamilton County Senator Cecil Thomas is a member. Several bills proposing the abolition of the death penalty have been introduced to this committee over the years, but none of them have ever passed this stage. 

Contact your senators and let them know of your support for this bill. Senator Cecil Thomas has the ability to champion this bill and allow it to pass into the next stage of the legislative process. Please take the time to contact him at (614) 466-5980 or reach him via email here: http://ohiosenate.gov/thomas/contact. If you are in another Ohio district that is not under Senator Thomas, then please take the time to message them and express your concerns. Together we can defeat Ohio’s barbaric practice of the execution of the mentally ill. Senator Steve Wilson: (614) 466-9737 Senator Lou Terhar: (614) 466-8068

HB 81 was referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee. Representative Bill Seitz is on that committee. Please call him at (614) 466-8258 to let him know your approval of this bill and to pass it out of committee.