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Ohio Senate advances execution ban of severely mentally ill

November 18, 2020 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Executing the severely mentally ill would be banned under legislation pending in the Ohio Senate during this year’s lame duck session.

The bill, previously passed by the House legislation, was informally passed during a Senate session Wednesday after receiving broad support from Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly. A final vote will come after Thanksgiving.

Senate President Larry Obhof, a Medina Republican, supported the bill but believes most Ohioans support the death penalty for some cases and so he wouldn’t support the abolition of capital punishment, spokesman John Fortney said last week.

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Ohio is under an unofficial death penalty moratorium as the state says it can’t find an adequate supply of drugs for lethal injection. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has delayed multiple inmates’ executions over the past couple of years as a result.

DeWine has also expressed concern that drug companies — which oppose the use of their drugs in executions — could pull pharmaceuticals from state hospitals to punish Ohio if it did find a lethal drug supply.

Opponents of the death penalty have been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of many in the Legislature to discuss bans on the process in recent years. Advocates for abolition have called on lawmakers to go a step further than Wednesday’s informal passing, enacting a capital punishment ban during the lame duck legislative session.

A Senate bill championed by Democrat Nickie Antonio in the GOP-controlled Senate has seen backing from Republicans concerned about the cost of capital punishment and the possibility of executing an innocent person.

After Senate approval, the bill to abolish execution of those with severe mental illness will move back to the House where that chamber will vote to concur to the Senate’s changes.

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This story has been corrected to show that Ohio Senate lawmakers informally approved a ban on executing individuals with severe mental illness, with plans for a full floor vote after Thanksgiving. Lawmakers did not pass the measure Wednesday.