Please call 800-372-7181 and urge your state representative to support HB274. On the same call, leave a message for House Judiciary Chairperson, Rep. John Tilley (D-Christian and Trigg Countys), urging him to give this bill a hearing in his committee. Please call as soon as possible. (To find out who your representative is, visit use the Project Vote Smartlink to fill in your home address, including your nine digit zip code to learn his or her name.)
Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Jefferson County), joined by several co-sponsors, introduced HB274 to end executions of severely mentally ill persons in Kentucky. (Select this link to read the bill and see the names of the co-sponsors.)
This legislation is supported by the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, the Kentucky National Alliance on Mental Illness, and others. Nationally the American Bar Association, the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations, and Murder Victims Families For Human Rights have called for legislation to keep severely ill persons from being executed.
Under the Kentucky proposal when a claim of severe mental illness is made in a capital case, the judge would conduct a pretrial hearing to allow the Commonwealth Attorney and the defendant’s lawyers to present evidence. If the evidence convinces the judge the defendant is severely mentally ill then the death penalty would not be a possible punishment. Life without parole and other penalties would still be available to the jury to impose if the defendant were to be found guilty of the murder.
Please forward this web page to your friends and family members. Even those who may otherwise support the death penalty might well oppose executing those whose mental health diminishes their capacity to understand the consequences of their behavior. The U. S. Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional the execution of young people whose brains are not developed or those who have mentally retardation. These two categories of persons do not have the mental capacity to be deterred by the punishment or to understand the consequences of their behavior.
Certainly we do not want to be a society who would punish these persons with death. The same is true for those severely mentally ill. Prison terms are punishment indeed. Please make that call today.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Legislature