Death Penalty

Death row inmate with vascular dementia is incompetent for execution, 11th Circuit rules

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A death row inmate who has vascular dementia and no memory of committing a murder is incompetent for execution, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday in the case of 66-year-old Vernon Madison, report the Montgomery Advertiser and

Madison was convicted of killing a Mobile police officer in April 1985. He has suffered a series of strokes and has memory loss and difficulty communicating, according to the appeals court. He does not think he ever killed anyone and does not have a rational understanding of why the state wants to execute him, according to testimony by his expert, a neuropsychologist.

Madison told the expert who evaluated him that the crime that led to his conviction “must have been a murder,” although he couldn’t remember the victim’s name. He said he doesn’t think he killed anyone because “I never went around killing folks.”

Madison is legally blind, incontinent and unable to walk on his own.

A court-appointed expert had found no evidence of malingering and didn’t dispute the diagnosis of vascular dementia. But he testified that Madison was able to discuss legal appeals and theories with his lawyers, and that showed he had a rational understanding of his sentence.

The appeals court concluded that the court-appointed expert’s testimony was insufficient to establish competency because it didn’t demonstrate that Madison was able to understand the connection between his past crime and execution. The expert’s testimony “demonstrates that he simply wasn’t looking at the right issues,” the court said.

Madison’s first two convictions were overturned on appeal. A jury that convicted him in his third trial recommended life in prison, but a judge overrode the decision and imposed the death penalty.

Hat tip to How Appealing and the Marshall Project.

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