U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court agrees to review case of death-row inmate who can't remember his crime

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment prevents the execution of an Alabama inmate who can’t remember his crime.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Vernon Madison, who suffers from vascular dementia and can’t remember killing a police officer in 1985, AL.com reports. The New York Times had prior coverage of the case in a column by its former Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse.

Madison had suffered a stroke in January 2016. Afterwards, a cognitive assessment showed a significant decline from previous scores, according to the cert petition. He couldn’t recall any of 25 elements in a brief story vignette, couldn’t remember the alphabet past the letter “G,” and couldn’t remember the name of the previous president.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against Madison in a summary reversal last November, holding that precedent on mental capacity did not prevent Madison’s execution in the context of his habeas appeal. At that time, the Supreme Court cited evidence that Madison couldn’t remember the crime or his trial, but he understood that he was being executed for murder.

The Supreme Court said then it was ruling based on a deferential standard given state court determinations by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and it was not expressing a view on the competency issue outside of that context.

On remand, Madison’s lawyers presented evidence that a court-appointed expert in the case had been suspended from the practice of psychology for a narcotics addition that led him to forge prescriptions for illegal pills.

The new appeal comes to the court outside of the habeas context, according to Madison’s cert petition.

The court had stayed Madison’s execution in January At the time, news reports had linked the stay to a different cert petition that had argued the state court judge who sentenced Madison to death had unconstitutionally overrode a jury’s recommendation for life in prison.

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