Bill to ban severely mentally ill from facing death penalty

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Defendants convicted of first-degree murder would be prohibited from facing the death penalty if they have certain severe mental illnesses under a bill making its way in the Tennessee General Assembly.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee agreed Wednesday to send the proposal to a full hearing.

According to the bill, severe mental illnesses include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder with psychosis and major depressive disorder with psychosis or delusional disorder. A defendant who had a severe mental illness at the time of the crime would not be eligible for the death penalty.

The bill, if passed, would only apply to future offenses.

Tennessee was one of three states to resume executions in 2018 after long breaks. Four more Tennessee executions are scheduled this year, starting in May.

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