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Ask your legislator to support HB16 to abolish the death penalty for people with severe mental illness

NAMI

The National Alliance on Mental Illness supports Kentuckys HB16 to eliminate the death penalty for people with mental illness.

Please call your representatives in the Kentucky state legislature at 800-372-7181 and leave this message, “I am calling to ask that you support H 16 and please consider co-sponsoring this important mental health legislation to prevent the execution of severely mentally ill persons.”

If you do not know the name of your legislator, the person who answers the phone may be able to help you. But it is easier to use the Project Vote Smartlink to fill in your home address, including your nine digit zip code to learn the names of your State Representative and your State Senator.

Please call as soon as possible, because we expect movement on this bill in the next two to three weeks. It is very important legislators hear from their constituents. This bill has strong bi-partisan support. If your legislator’s name appears at the end of this email, please contact him/her and thank them for cosponsoring.

The Kentucky Mental Health Coalition and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kentucky are working with Rep. David Floyd (R-Bardstown, minority whip) and other Kentucky legislators to pass a law that will prevent the execution of severely mentally ill persons who commit a capital murder and whose mental illness is active at the time the crime was committed.

KCADP supports this effort to limit executions in the state. This bill is similar to the law that was passed in 1990 that excluded those who are mentally retarded from executions. Defendants with an active severe mental illness at the time of a crime have a diminished capacity for understanding what it is they are doing. This diminished capacity limits their culpability, their blameworthiness for this action. In addition, the death penalty, allegedly a deterrent, could have little or no impact on a severely mentally ill defendant.

The bill’s language flows from language recommended by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Bar Association and NAMI. In addition to support from the above mental health and legal experts, this legislation is being nationally promoted by Murder Victims Families for Human Rights (MVFHR).

MVFHR and NAMI have recently published “Double Tragedies: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness.”

If the bill becomes law, it would become effective 90 days after the end of the General Assembly, about July 15, 2010. It will apply only to defendants whose trials begin after the effective date.

Despite rumors to the contrary, HB16 will not not apply to anyone already sentenced to die and on death row in Kentucky. Please make sure your legislator understands that fact if you speak with him or her personally.

The procedural aspects of the law mirror what happens in cases where the defendant may be mentally retarded.

If a prosecutor decides to seek the death penalty and the defendant alleges that he or she was severely mentally ill at the time of the crime, then the judge would hold a hearing before the trial. The prosecutors and the defense attorneys would present their evidence and the judge would render a decision. If the judge finds that the defendant was severely mentally ill at the time of the crime, then the prosecutor can seek life without parole, life without parole for 25 years, life or a term of years. The prosecutor could not seek to execute the defendant.

If the judge finds that the defendant was NOT actively severely mentally ill at the time of the crime, then the prosecutor can seek the death penalty, but the defense attorney can still present the defendant’s claim of mental illness to the jury.

By deciding this matter before trial, the state saves money by not having to try the case as a death penalty case when the judge rules that the defendant was, indeed, severely mentally ill at the time of the trial.

By selecting this link you can read HB16 for yourself.

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