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Ohio Senate Approves Ban on Executions of Mentally Ill Inmates

photo of Bob Spada

A state Senate committee has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill banning execution of people who were known to be severely mentally ill at the time they committed a capital crime.

Republican former senator Bob Spada of North Royalton in northeast Ohio has long been an advocate for the mentally ill, and told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other severe illnesses shouldn’t be sentenced to die.

“It’s unfair to put people with a serious mental illness to death. It’s quite often beyond their capability to understand what they’re doing.”

Prosecutors have said they’re concerned that the bill puts a burden on their colleagues to prove that the diagnosis of severe mental illness was unfounded or that the mental illness didn’t affect the crime.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.