U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Execution of Prisoner with Severe Dementia

In AmLaw Litigation Daily, Stephen Miller and Rachel Collins Clarke discuss the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of an inmate who no longer remembers his own name, much less committing the capital crime of conviction. In October, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Madison v. Alabama, a case that will determine whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a prisoner whose medical condition deprives him of any memory of his offense. In January 2018, Madison requested a stay of execution. In his petition, Madison claimed that he lacked the competency to be executed. The state court denied Madison’s petition, but the Supreme Court granted the stay—and ultimately a full writ of certiorari—in order to consider Madison’s Eighth Amendment claim. Madison argued that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and would contravene U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring the execution of mentally disabled or insane prisoners. The Court could issue its decision anytime between now and June 2019. When announced, the Madison case will provide important insights about the Eighth Amendment’s restriction on capital punishment of the mentally disabled.

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Stephen A. Miller

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