Virginia senate votes to ban death penalty for defendants with severe mental illness

Virginia senate votes to ban death penalty for defendants with severe mental illness

Virginia’s Republican-controlled state Senate voted to ban the death penalty for criminal defendants with severe mental illness, despite warnings from one senator that it would allow “monsters” to escape the ultimate punishment.

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The bill defines “severe mental illness” as the “exhibition of active psychotic symptoms that substantially impair a person’s capacity to (i) appreciate the nature, consequences, or wrongfulness of the person’s conduct; (ii) exercise rational judgment in relation to the person’s conduct; or (iii) conform the person’s conduct to the requirements of the law.” The bill explicitly excludes the effects of drug or alcohol abuse. It will be a jury’s decision as to whether a defendant meets the criteria for severe mental illness.

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“The U.S Supreme Court over time has issued decisions that really talk about culpability and the fact that the death penalty should only be applied when an individual has full understanding of his actions and consequences,” Favola said.

 
source: jurist.org