The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court is ready to consider the competency claim of a sick inmate in Alabama. The court will hear arguments about a man who was sentenced to death for the murder of an Alabama policeman in 1985, but he now can’t remember the crime due to post-stroke dementia.
The justices are to determine whether executing Vernon Madison, 68, would be considered cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violate the Constitution, due to his declining mental health. Madison was convicted in 1985 of killing Mobile officer Julius Schulte.
In the past, the high court has stated that inmates on death row should possess “rational understanding” about their impending execution and why it will happen.
Madison’s attorneys argue that he has suffered brain damage due to multiple strokes, memory loss and vascular dementia, and has an IQ of 72. They also argue that he doesn’t remember the crime and does not have the required rational understanding about why the state is going to execute him.
His attorneys have also described him as frail, and he recently attended a hearing in a wheelchair. They claim Madison is also legally blind, often confused, incontinent, asks for his deceased mother to visit him and can’t recite the alphabet.
In 2016, an Alabama court ruled that he was competent after a court-appointed psychologist found he was able to recall his case and appeals. The neuropsychologist hired by the defense told the court that Madison could not recollect the murder. However, the attorney general argues that Madison claimed amnesia as early as 1990, even though a court-appointed expert determined he recalled and understood many of his life’s details, his trial and death sentence.
Madison has already received two stays for scheduled execution dates, and the Supreme Court stayed his lethal injection in January in order to consider this competency claim.
*Photo credit Associated Press