Ohio Panel Recommends Banning Death Penalty for Severely Mentally Ill
On September 26, the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty voted 15-2 to recommend a ban on death sentences for people with severe mental illness. The panel of legal experts was created by the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association and includes judges, attorneys, and legislators. Their proposal will be submitted with other recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly in 2014. Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, said his organization has been advocating for such a ban since 1999, when the state resumed executions after 36 years with the lethal injection of an inmate with a lifelong history of severe mental illness--Wilford Berry. “We knew this man was severely mentally disabled,” Russell said. “It is inhumane to execute someone like that.” Panel member Judge Kathleen Keough said the exclusion was “a matter of common decency,” and defendants with mental illness should be considered similar to juveniles and those with intellectual disabilities, who are already excluded from the death penalty.
(A. Johnson, "Group wants to exclude severely mentally ill from death penalty," Columbus Dispatch; Associated Press, September 27, 2013). See Mental Illness and Studies.