The death penalty in Kentucky has come under profound and justified scrutiny.
A study by the American Bar Association released in December recommended that
Kentucky halt executions until some of the flaws in the system are fixed. We
support that caution.
The report took particular note of the lack of protections against executing
people with serious mental disabilities. The problems with the death penalty in
Kentucky can't be solved in one session, if they can be solved at all.
However, HB 145 does address the treatment of mental illness in death penalty
cases, and should be passed. The bill, now appearing in its third session, was
introduced by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and has 10 co-sponsors. It was
assigned to the House Judiciary committee but has not been called for a
The bill provides that a person who "had a severe mental disorder or disability
that significantly impaired his or her capacity" to understand the nature and
consequences of his or her actions at the time a crime was committed cannot be
The bill specifies that disorders brought on by intentional use of drugs and
alcohol do not by themselves qualify for the prohibition.
The ABA report points out that while Kentucky does prohibit execution of
profoundly retarded individuals it "does not prohibit execution of offenders
with mental disabilities similar to mental retardation, such as dementia or
traumatic brain injury," which affect reasoning but often manifest themselves
later in life.
Under this bill, mentally ill people who commit capital crimes would be subject
to all other punishments under our code, including life imprisonment.
It is time to pass this bill.
(source: Editorial, Lexington Herald-Leader)