A measure long-sought by Kentucky’s bishops to further curb the use of the death penalty in the commonwealth was signed into law April 8 by Gov. Andy Beshear.
House Bill 269 prevents the execution of people who have been diagnosed with certain severe mental illnesses at the time they commit a capital offense. The bill lists the illnesses as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.
The measure had bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled General Assembly this year, though similar bills have failed in years past.
When the bill looked like it might pass the Senate and head to the governor’s desk, Jason Hall of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky said, “This is a very small step, but this is a step.”
“If we’re going to eventually abolish it, every vote the legislature takes away from the death penalty makes it easier to take further steps,” said Hall, the conference’s executive director.
He added, “When something is as difficult to uproot as the death penalty, every step is significant and worth taking.”
The conference, the public policy arm of Kentucky’s bishops, previously worked on a successful effort to ban executions of those with intellectual disabilities.
Hall said the conference intends to continue working to abolish capital punishment in Kentucky.