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Bill advances to limit use of death penalty in Kentucky

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Posted at 4:05 PM, Mar 17, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky Senate panel on Thursday advanced a bill that would ban the use of the death penalty for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses.

The measure sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with no resistance. If the full Senate passes the bill without changes, the measure would go to Gov. Andy Beshear. It won House passage by a wide margin last month. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

Last year, a similar bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Since then, the bill's leading supporters consulted key senators as the new version was crafted.

Under this year's bill, the death penalty ban would apply to defendants with a documented history — including a diagnosis from a mental health professional — of certain mental disorders and who had active symptoms at the time of the offense. The disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going free," said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill’s lead sponsor. “It doesn’t mean they’re not getting punished. It just means it’s going to be life in prison without parole.”

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll thanked the bill's sponsors for the revisions.

“In the past years when we’ve had this bill, my concern has always been the state of mind (of the defendant) at the time the crime occurs," he said. “I think you all have addressed that.”

The last execution in Kentucky was in 2008.