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Action needed now: Request your state rep as Rep. John Tilley give HB 145 a hearing to stop the death penalty for people with severe mental illness

Rep. John Tilley

Rep. John Tilley

Please call 800-372-7181 today and leave this message for your state representative (if you’re not sure whom that it, you can look it up here):

Ask Rep. Tilley to give HB 145 a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee now and vote yes for the bill whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

If Mr. Tilley is your representative, then leave this message:

Rep. Tilley please give HB 145 a hearing so Kentucky cannot execute severely mentally ill defendants.

This session of the Kentucky General Assembly concluded the halfway mark last Thursday, Feb 15. House Bill 145, a bill to end the use of the death penalty for severely mentally ill persons, still languishes in the House Judiciary Committee. Though the sponsor, Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Jefferson County), has requested Rep. John Tilley (D-Christian and Trigg) who chairs that committee to give HB 145 a hearing, Rep. Tilley has not even posted the bill for such. (House rules require a bill be posted for a hearing at least three days before the hearing.)

This is particularly disturbing because of the recent ABA Kentucky Assessment report that specifically recommends ending the death penalty for severely mentally ill persons.

In addition the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial on Feb. 17 calling for passage of this important legislation.

That editorial appeared on the same day that The Bowling Green Daily News published a story demonstrating how needed this legislation is. Kathy Coy, a woman who committed a horrible crime, killing 21-year-old Jamie Stice and cutting Stice’s unborn son from her womb, pled guilty but mentally ill and will be sentenced to life without parole.

The local prosecutor, Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron, who has opposed earlier versions of HB 145 during testimony he provided on Aug. 11, 2010 to the House Judiciary Committee, wanted to see this mentally ill defendant executed. He agreed to the plea agreement, however, not because of her mental illness, but for what he called a “logical resolution.” Here is what The Daily News said:

Reaching a decision against seeking the death penalty was a tough call for Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron.

“I have struggled more than I have in any other case from the standpoint everything in my heart told me the only resolution for Ms. Coy was the death penalty,” Cohron said after the hearing. But because Kentucky rarely executes people on death row, and many death convictions are overturned, a guilty plea with a sentence of life without parole is a “logical resolution.”

With prosecutors clearly willing to see even severely mentally ill persons executed, we ask all our members to encourage Rep. Tilley to hear this bill and ask your State Representative to vote yes for its passage.

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