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Bill would ban execution of mentally ill

We have come a long way in recognizing that mental recognizing that mental illness, even if it results in abhorrent behavior, does not mean a person is ill — or sometimes even capable of resisting violent impulses. Ohio law has not kept up with our understanding.

Buckeye State legislators recognize that. They have approved a bill that would ban execution of people who were severely mentally ill at the time they committed capital offenses such as murder. Those suffering from maladies such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder would be affected. Again, it would have to be proven they were affected by such mental illness when they committed crimes for which they otherwise could have been sentenced to death.

Ohio has not executed anyone for some time, because of difficulty obtaining the drugs needed to conduct lethal injections. No one can say how long that problem will last. But at some point, it is likely executions will resume.

Capital punishment of anyone for any reason is an exceedingly controversial practice. Executing people who were driven to violence by mental illnesses beyond their control should not be controversial, however.

Gov. Mike DeWine should sign the General Assembly’s bill into law. It is not intended to grant breaks to the truly, intentionally vicious, only to men and women whose illnesses were so severe that they were not responsible for their actions.

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