Ending the Death Penalty for the Seriously Mentally Ill

OJPC is part of a strong coalition of groups working to eliminate capital-punishment eligibility for people with serious mental illness: The Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption. We are excited to report that Sen. Bill Seitz (R, Cincinnati) and Sen. Sandra Williams (D, Cleveland) have introduced a bill to make this a reality, Senate Bill 162, now pending before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. OJPC Executive Director David Singleton testified before that committee in October 2015 — read the report he presented here.

Become an OJPC Community Champion — Join us April 12th!

Join us at the Statehouse in Columbus on April 12th at 9 a.m. We will be advocating, along with the Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption, for this humane and sensible limitation to the death penalty. Register here. Keynote speaker: retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton.

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Background

In 2011, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor created the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty. 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 56 recommendations in April 2014. Recommendation #9 is the focal point of OJPC’s advocacy:

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.

OJPC is proud to be part of the diverse coalition working on this issue. In addition to the Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the coalition also has strong support from former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, former Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Terry Collins, former U.S. Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.

OJPC’s advocacy on this issue is on solid legal footing. The U.S. Supreme Court has been incrementally excluding defendants with diminished moral and mental capacity from the death penalty in cases like Atkins v. Virginia (2002, excluding intellectually disabled) and Roper v. Simmons (2005, excluding juveniles). A 2007 American Bar Association (ABA) report on Ohio’s death penalty highlighted numerous problems in numerous areas, including the execution of seriously mentally ill defendants. The ABA has also developed model legislation specifically for the purpose of carving out this group of defendants from death-penalty eligibility; this became the basis for Senate Bill 162.

Contact OJPC’s Deputy Director, Stephen JohnsonGrove, for more information on how you can support our advocacy on Senate Bill 162.