Virginia NAMI Sponsoring Forum In Richmond About Death Penalty & Mental Illness

death chamber

(8-11-16) If you live in Virginia, you might wish to attend a forum about mental illness and the death penalty being held August 15th, Monday, in Richmond. The Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project is hosting it. I’ve been told there are a few seats still available.

NAMI VA. Executive Director Mira Signer is urging family members and persons with lived experience to  learn how they can support legislation that NAMI hopes to have introduced during the 2017 session that would exclude persons with severe mental illnesses from being put to death if their thinking was so impaired that they didn’t understand the consequences of their actions.

Dr. Richard Bonnie from the University of Virginia School of Law will be one of the speaker’s. Dr. Bonnie has been instrumental for more than two decades in helping Virginia’s elected leaders better understand mental illnesses. He has been pivotal in launching statewide reforms.

News Release

 In Virginia, individuals living with mental illness can still be sentenced to death and executed, despite a growing consensus that these defendants are not the “worst of the worst” murderers for whom the ultimate punishment is intended. 

The courts have ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional for individuals with intellectual disabilities and juveniles because these groups are less able to appreciate the consequences of their actions, less able to help their own defense, and are more likely to be wrongfully convicted. These characteristics also apply to certain individuals with severe mental illness. Leading organizations, including NAMI and the American Bar Association, as well as a majority of the American public, now oppose the use of capital punishment for those with mental illness. 

To gain a better understanding of this timely issue and discuss the need for reform, NAMI Virginia and the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project would like to invite you to join us for a forum called Addressing Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty in Virginia on Monday, August 15th, 2016 in Richmond, VA. 

Our expert panelists will provide attendees with a better understanding of this complex legal issue and will discuss steps towards reform. The forum will include lively discussion between our panelists and attendees about the challenges and opportunities associated with tackling this sensitive topic – and we hope that you will join us for it! 

As a member of Virginia’s mental health community, we would particularly value your participation to this important discussion and would most welcome your thoughts and questions about potential reform options. Please join us on Monday, August 15th from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at Troutman Sanders, 1001 Haxall Point, Richmond, VA. The panel discussion will be followed by a reception. Complimentary parking will be available at Troutman Sanders. Registration for the event is requested. 


  • Richard Bonnie, Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  • The Honorable Jay Leftwich, Delegate, Virginia House of Delegates
  • James S. Reinhard, M.D., Medical Director/Associate Director, Virginia Tech/Cook Counseling Center and former Commissioner of DBHDS
  • Mira Signer, Executive Director, NAMI Virginia

RSVP, or send any questions you may have, to  

We hope to see you on August 15th!

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.