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Relating to the applicability of the death penalty to a capital offense committed by a person with severe mental illness.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 140 would prohibit death sentences for defendants who at the time of their capital offense had a severe mental illness. Severe mental illness would be defined as having schizophrenia, a schizoaffective disorder, or a bipolar disorder with active psychotic symptoms that substantially impair the person’s ability to appreciate the nature of their conduct or exercise rational judgment. If a defendant wishes to raise evidence that they had a severe mental illness, they would have to file notice with the court at least a month before their trial date. The trial jury would be responsible for determining whether or not the person has proven with clear and convincing evidence that they had a severe mental illness at the time of the offense.
HB 140 would also permit the appointment of a mental health expert upon the request of either party to conduct an examination of the defendant.
Texas Action supports HB 140 because it would limit wrongful applications of the death penalty to prevent its use on a person who lacks the capacity for rational judgment. Just like juveniles, those with severe mental illnesses have a lower capacity for rational judgment. A person who cannot make rational decisions should still be held responsible for their actions but should not be subject to the death penalty.