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Bill To End Death Penalty For Mentally Ill Advances

A bill that would end the executions of people who are judged severely mentally ill passed a Senate committee Monday. It’s not the first time state lawmakers have tried to stop the punishment.

Virginia executed a man named William Morva in 2017, despite numerous concerns about his mental health. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax) would stop any future executions, in cases where experts determine a defendant was severely mentally ill at the time of the offense.

The bill defines severe mental illness as “the exhibition of active psychotic symptoms,” which Favola calls a “rigorous” standard. 

“We exempt the use of alcohol, drugs, or dementia. None of that,” she said. “This has got to be serious, serious mental illness at the time the crime was committed.”

There are two inmates on death row in Virginia, according to the Department of Corrections. 

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the measure in 2019, but it failed to get enough votes in the House. With Democrats in control of the General Assembly this year, it will likely reach the Governor’s desk for a signature.