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More people convicted of murder may receive death penalty exemptions under a measure California lawmakers approved Friday that would expand whom the courts can classify as intellectually disabled.

Under the legislation, the death penalty could not be sought against defendants if health experts determined there was evidence of an intellectual disability that began during their “developmental period” — the time in a person’s life when their brain is developing — as defined by mental health diagnosis standards.

Current California law prohibits intellectually disabled defendants from being sentenced to death if mental health experts determine that their impairment was evident before they were 18 years old. This legislation removes that age threshold.

“All we’re really doing is updating the state of the science used to determine intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities to what is currently being used,” said Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), who introduced the bill. “There are people who are sitting on death row who shouldn’t be there and don’t need to be there. That’s what we’re trying to rectify.”

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