Ohio Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton participates in a radio panel discussion on Criminal Justice & Mental Illness

Ohio Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

A proposed Ohio House bill would bar the death penalty in cases where the convicted can prove he or she suffered from serious mental illness while committing the murder.

The proposal comes from a growing understanding about the role of mental illness in crime.

Today on All Sides, the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, and how some Ohioans are working to move people who are mentally ill from prison and into treatment.


  • David LelandOhio Representative for District 22, co-sponsor of House Bill 136 and the ranking member on the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee
  • Evelyn Lundberg StrattonFormer Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Project Director for Ohio Stepping Up Initiative
  • Michael WoodyCIT Coordinator for Ohio, former CIT international president, law enforcement liaison for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence, credited with starting first CIT program in Ohio 

Listen: https://radio.wosu.org/post/criminal-justice-and-mental-health#stream/0

Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Helps Create New Ohio Mental Health Bill

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton consulted on a New Ohio Mental Health Bill passed by the Ohio House.

Retired Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Ohio House passes bill banning executions of people with ‘serious mental illness’ during crime.

By Laura Hancock, cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio –Defendants could escape the death penalty if they suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder during the time of the crime, under a bill passed Wednesday in the Ohio House.

Representatives passed House Bill 136 76 to 17.

Ohio criminal law allows people to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. People can also be found incompetent to stand trial. HB 136 would apply when a person is too impaired to “exercise rational judgment” to conform to the law or appreciate the nature, consequences or wrongness of their conduct.

People can receive death sentences in Ohio if they’re convicted of aggravated murder.

Under HB 136, if a defendant’s “serious mental illness” at the time of the aggravated murder is challenged, the court can order an evaluation. If the person is ultimately found guilty of aggravated murder, they would be ineligible for the death penalty, assuming the evaluation showed they were seriously mentally ill during the crime.

Instead, the person would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, a Republican from Tuscarawas County and an attorney, is sponsoring the bill. He said that the legislation is the result of a 2014 task force that reviewed the state’s administration of the death penalty. He said HB 136 was drafted in consultation with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.

Two U.S. Supreme Court cases found that juveniles and impaired people could be not executed due to “diminished mental capacity.” Hillyer said that serious mental illnesses diminish people’s capacity.

Hillyer said that Ohio law has a similar exception of the death penalty for juveniles and developmentally disabled people.

“This bill isn’t about guilt or innocence,” he said. “You can still be found guilty of the capital offense of aggravated murder.”

The bill is retroactive. People on death row can seek an evaluation about their mental health and have their sentence reduced to life without parole. It’s not immediately clear how much that will cost the state. Capital cases exceed the cost of life imprisonment cases of up to $1 million to $3 million per case, due to legal appeals required before the state executes someone. But a legislative fiscal analysis also evaluations will cost public defenders, county prosecutors and possibly the county sheriffs more money in paperwork and court motions.

There are 142 people on death row in Ohio.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposed the bill for the past four years as overly broad. People with mental illness or developmental disabilities can already avoid the death penalty, and HB 136 is just for people “whose mental illness is so weak that they were unable to create reasonable doubt in the mind of even one single juror” that they were not guilty by reason of insanity, said the organization’s Executive Eirector Louis Tobin.

Ohio executions are on hold for now, as Gov. Mike DeWine and officials in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction search for a new means to administer the death penalty. A federal magistrate in January ruled the old method of a three-drug cocktail was unconstitutional.

HB 136 now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.


⁦‪How Hamilton County Ohio Is Stepping Up To Prevent Jail Time Due To Mental Illness



According to the National Stepping Up Initiative, in the U.S. approximately 2 million times each year, people who have serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails.

These individuals often don’t receive appropriate, or any, treatment, and, upon release, are at a higher risk of re-incarceration than those without mental illness.

Hamilton County Ohio Commissioners late last year voted to be part of the Stepping Up program to reduce the number of individuals incarcerated due to mental health issues.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss the initiative are

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice and current attorney with Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton; 

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Denise Driehaus;

Vice President of Mental Health and Addiction Services with the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Linda Gallagher; and 

Central Clinic Behavioral Health Court Clinic attorney Gary Yuratovac.

Video Profile of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

As an Ohio Supreme Court justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD held a unique role of power and prestige.

Still, a passion for advocacy — instilled by her Christian missionary parents — bubbled without a proper outlet. Stratton found a release in leaving the bench.

A daily dynamo, she’s now creating communities big and small to help reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail, including juveniles and military veterans.

Come along for a ride with a Buckeye always working on a plan to get from here to there.

Hang on.


Editor’s Note:  The Ohio State Alumni Magazine Cover Story, which includes this video, was published in a previous blog post.

Ohio Governor Kasich appoints retired Justice Evelyn L. Stratton as an honorary co-chair of the Bipartisan Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations

The Columbus Dispatch: http://bit.ly/151OCe3

Ohio Governor John Kasich wants a game plan from the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations by April 30 describing actions that can be taken to help ensure that minorities “feel safe and that they are not being targeted.”

Collaborating with black lawmakers, Kasich announced the task force last month after police shot and killed a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland who had an air pistol and a man in Beavercreek who was carrying a pellet rifle taken off a shelf inside a Wal-Mart.

The task force will be led by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born. Former State Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, will serve as co-chairwoman. The task force will conduct public hearings to solicit the views of Ohioans.

Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. George V. Voinovich; former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Cleveland; and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton will serve as honorary co-chairs.

The panel includes lawmakers, police officers, clergy, criminal-justice experts and other community leaders, including some with ties to the NAACP and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Retired Justice Stratton Emceed Justices Swearing-In Ceremony

The Columbus Dispatach: http://bit.ly/151NDe6

14 JAN 2015 – The courtroom was  standing room-only this afternoon as Ohio Supreme Court Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Judith L. French took their ceremonial oaths of office for their six-year terms. Former Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who French replaced by appointment in December 2012, emceed the ceremony.