FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – Kentucky state lawmakers took up a bill putting new restrictions on who can be given the death sentence on Friday. House Bill 269 is aimed at protecting mentally-ill people. It would add four severe conditions to the list of disabilities that would prevent them from being handed the death penalty.
“You can’t say we’re pro-life and then say ‘except.’ There’s no exception, all life has to be precious,” Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) said.
The bill would apply to capital crimes where the death penalty could be on the table. Some death penalty supporters broke away to support protections for the mentally ill, while others saw it as a slippery slope.
“I think we’re going to lose credibility in the pro-life movement if we start comparing a convicted criminal, who is convicted of the most heinous crimes, who is convicted by a jury of his peers with an innocent holy baby,” Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) said.
The accused would have to prove having active symptoms at the time of the crime and a documented history of it. A medically-confirmed diagnosis of either schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder is also required.
“It in no way absolves defendents of legal responsibilities for their crimes, they can still be tried convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms including life without parole,” Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) said.
Sen. John Schickel voted against the bill and argued the decision isn’t up to the Senate and that each criminal case is unique
“No one wants to execute anyone with serious mental illness, but a jury can look at the evidence and decide that for themselves,” he said.
Schickel said in death penalty trials he’s experienced every effort is already made to not have the death penalty.
Kentucky hasn’t carried out an execution since 2008.
The bill passed the Senate 29 to 9. If it is signed into law it would not be retroactive, meaning it wouldn’t apply to the more than two dozen people currently on Kentucky’s death row.