Kentucky Senate passes bill to ban death penalty for individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Friday that would ban the death penalty on individuals diagnosed with specific mental illnesses.

Under House Bill 269, defendants who show a documented history of mental illness at the time of the offense are immune from capital punishment. The defendant must show a diagnosis from a mental health professional. The mental illnesses included are schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and delusional disorder.

The bill’s primary sponsor is State Representative Chad McCoy. The Kentucky House of Representatives passed the bill by a 76 to 19 vote on February 9. The bill was then approved by a 25 to 9 vote in the Republican-majority Senate on Friday.

This bill comes in the midst of many other state actions regarding the death penalty. In 2021, Ohio passed House Bill 136, which abolished capital punishment for those with the same mental illnesses listed in the Kentucky bill. Also in 2021, Virginia became the twenty-third state and the first Southern state to ban the death penalty completely. Currently, 27 states still practice capital punishment.

The bill will now be sent to Governor Andy Beshear.