Serving the Church in Texas

HB 3080: Life imprisonment for people convicted of capital offense who have severe mental illness

Michael Barba

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops support HB 3080.

Under HB 3080, if a person with a severe mental illness is convicted of a capital offense, they cannot be sentenced to death, but must be sentenced to life without parole. Individuals with the following mental illnesses at the time of the offense are included under the bill:

  • bipolar disorders (hypomanic, manic, depressive, and mixed);
  • depression in childhood and adolescence;
  • major depressive disorders (single episode or recurrent);
  • obsessive-compulsive disorders;
  • paranoid and other psychotic disorders;
  • schizo-affective disorders (bipolar or depressive); and
  • schizophrenia.[1]

HB 3080 establishes that a jury must be impaneled to determine mental illness prior to the trial to determine culpability. The jury must reach a unanimous verdict upon this question.

The bishops support this bill because, under Church teaching, if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety, lawmakers should limit themselves to such means. There can be no doubt that HB 3080 fulfills this requirement, and we support it and ask for your favorable consideration.

Background. An article by Cardinal Avery Dulles on the death penalty, titled Catholicism & Capital Punishment, published by First Things in 2001, provides a helpful summary of moral theology pertaining to capital punishment. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. held the Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University.

[1] Section 1, HB 3080. See Texas Insurance Code, Sec. 1355.001(1).

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