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Ohio man's death sentence overturned under new mental illness law

Ohio man's death sentence overturned under new mental illness law
Donald Ketterer was convicted of the aggravated murder of an 85-year-old man in 2003. File Photo courtesy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- An Ohio prisoner's death sentence has been overturned and he was resentenced to life without chance of parole in response to a new law protecting people who were severely mentally ill at the time of their crime.

Donald Ketterer, 72, was moved from death row to a state prison in Warren County on Oct. 6, JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told WXIX-TV in Cincinnati.

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Visiting Butler County Common Pleas Judge James Brogan granted relief in Ketterer's sentencing last month citing the new law signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in January, according to the Dayton Daily News.

The law says convicted murderers who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder at the time of their offense are ineligible for the death penalty. The law, which went into effect in April, allows current death row inmates a one-year window to seek to have their death sentences overturned.

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Ketterer was sentenced to death for the 2003 murder of Lawrence Sanders, 85. Ketterer pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, telling police he struck Sanders in the head with an iron skillet and repeatedly stabbed him with scissors. He said he was angry Sanders didn't loan him money to pay court fines.

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The Daily News reported Ketterer had a long history of substance abuse and mental illness.

In Brogan's ruling, he wrote that "Ketterer suffered from bipolar disorder on Feb. 24, 2003, when Lawrence Sanders was murdered ... and because of his bipolar disorder, lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law."

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Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he won't appeal the decision to overturn Ketterer's new sentence.

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