Is It Cruel and Unusual to Execute a Man with Dementia?
February 28, 2019
(The Atlantic) – That question—when can the state impose the ultimate penalty on a condemned prisoner who, because of dementia, can’t remember the crime?—is at issue in Madison v. Alabama, which the Court decided, 5–3, on Wednesday. It’s also a taste of the death-penalty jurisprudence of the future. Vernon Madison murdered an Alabama police officer in 1985. After several mistrials on constitutional grounds, he was convicted in 1998 and pursued federal habeas relief until 2015. Meanwhile, Madison’s health collapsed. After a series of strokes, he is now unable to walk, and is also incontinent and legally blind. He cannot recite the alphabet or rephrase a simple sentence. Perhaps most important legally, he can no longer remember the crime he committed.