It has been over a decade since the U.S. Supreme Court, in separate rulings, declared that it is unconstitutional to execute juvenile offenders or the intellectually disabled. Now an effort is underway to achieve the same protection for the severely mentally ill.
In a recent Washington summit, a coalition of groups, including the Catholic Mobilizing Network, the American Bar Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, worked on establishing goals and priorities for achieving a severe mental illness exemption by 2018. Several states will likely consider legislation in the upcoming year to extend this legal protection.
To meet this exemption, defendants would likely have to have a specific diagnosis like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, would have had the condition for at least a year and would have to have “severe impairment” in major areas of functioning.