On Saturday, February 27, 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation (see bill below) that will allow defendants with mental illness (as well as intellectual or developmental disabilities) to introduce evidence in court pertaining to their diagnosis and how it may have impacted their mental state at the time of the alleged offense.
This legislation also requires judges to consider mental illness, intellectual disability, and developmental disability during bail and sentencing and requires training for court-appointed lawyers to help them understand the unique responsibility of representing defendants with such conditions. It nullifies a Virginia Supreme Court ruling from 1985 that banned the introduction of such evidence during a trial.
The harm caused by 1985 court ruling is incalculable. For 36 years, the accused were denied a necessary tool to defend themselves.