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Letter to the editor corrects false information about Ohio's SMI exemption from the death penalty

OPPA President-Elect, Megan Testa, MD and Retired Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton's letter to the editor (LTE) was printed online (and in the paper) to address an editorial with false information published recently in the Tribune Chronicle about legislation in both the Ohio House and Senate that would spare individuals from the death penalty IF, at the time of the crime, an individual was diagnosed by a forensic mental health evaluator with one of the five severe mental illness (SMI) diagnoses AND that only those individuals whose SMI was in such a state of severity that it lead to diminished capacity at the time of their crime.

Some of the false claims include:

CLAIM: The court system and appeals process contain years’ worth of options allowing defendants to challenge their criminal conviction based on mental capacity at the time of the crime.

FACT: In Ohio there is currently no legal mechanism for courts to consider diminished capacity due to serious mental illness at the time of a capital crime. Atkins claims address Intellectual Disability exclusively, not serious mental illness.

CLAIM: Offering a new appeal option for death row inmates will all but guarantee every one of the 138 killers on Ohio’s death row will initiate new appeals.

FACT: Only 5 to 10 percent, or 10 to 13 inmates, of Ohio’s death row could possibly qualify for exemption.

CLAIM: The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association suggests the bill is so broad it “effectively ends the death penalty” in Ohio.

FACT: The bill would only allow a very narrow set of individuals with both serious mental illness and diminished capacity to seek exemption from execution.

Read full LTE here

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