In March 2020, a bipartisan group of State Senators pledged to work together on a bill that would repeal the death penalty in Ohio. The bill has not been formally introduced. Read what we do know about the bill here.
Ending the death penalty for people with serious mental illnesses
OJPC is part of a strong coalition of groups working to eliminate capital-punishment eligibility for people with severe mental illness, The Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption. We are excited to report House Bill 136 passed the full House by a vote of 76-17 on June 5, 2019. Our advocacy does not end there. Senators John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) have introduced Senate Bill 54, now pending before the Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 136 exempts individuals suffering from four debilitating diagnoses (Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder and Delusional Disorder) from being subject to the death penalty. Defendants may raise their mental illness and prove that, at the time of the crime, they were symptomatic of their disorders. This bill is retroactive and follows the same procedures to resentence an individual as outlined in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases of Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons.
Senate Bill 54 is similar to HB 136 except that the Senate version protects an additional severe mental illness, Major Depressive Disorder. The five diagnoses protected in SB 54 are demonstrated to be the most debilitating illnesses that lead to impairment, detachment from reality and disorganized thinking. Individuals with these impairments are much less culpable and therefore deserving of protection from Ohio’s most severe punishment.
OJPC’s advocacy on the mental illness exemption has led to passage through the committee process in both the House and Senate, but this year is the first time a full chamber has voted on a bill.