Bill would bar death penalty if 'serious mental illness'

Ken Piorkowski / CC BY-SA 2.0 / MGN
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A bill now in Ohio's legislature would allow people convicted of aggravated murder to avoid the death penalty if they're found to have had a "serious mental illness" at the time of the offense.

Republican Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, of Uhrichsville, sponsored the bill. He has said the death penalty should be reserved for only the worst offenders.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the bill has bipartisan support and support from mental health advocacy groups.

Offenders deemed by professionals to have had "serious mental illness" must have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder. The condition also must have "significantly impaired the person's capacity to exercise rational judgment."

Qualifying death row inmates could petition for resentencing.

Prosecutors in Ohio have opposed the bill.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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