April 11, 2022 Update | On April 8, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed into law HB 269, making Kentucky the second state in the country to formally exempt people with severe mental illness from receiving the death penalty.
March 31, 2022 | On March 25, the Kentucky Senate held a floor vote and overwhelmingly passed House Bill 269, which would prevent the executions of people with serious mental illness. The floor vote was the final hurdle in the legislative process; now the bill needs only a signature from Governor Andy Beshear to become law.
“You can’t say we’re pro-life and then say ‘except.’ There’s no exception, all life has to be precious,” said Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield).
Kentucky saw robust efforts in 2021 to advance similar legislation. Though that bill successfully passed in the House, it ultimately did not have enough support in the Senate to come to a floor vote.
This year’s bill, which had strong bipartisan support from 21 co-sponsors, was the only one of its kind in 2022 to progress all the way to the governor’s desk. Though Florida, Tennessee, and South Dakota also introduced similar legislation this year, all sponsored by Republicans, ultimately these bills did not have the necessary support to advance.
If signed by Governor Andy Beshear, House Bill 269 will make Kentucky the second state to formally outlaw the execution of individuals with serious mental illness. Ohio became the first state to enact such measures in January 2021.
The last execution in Kentucky was in 2008. The state currently has 27 people on death row.