Monday, October 1, 2018
In Supreme Court Tomorrow, Oct 2, Oral Argument on Whether 8th Amendment Bars Execution of Individual With Advanced Dementia & No Memory of Crime
As type this post, in the background I can hear the televised voices of legislators on Capitol Hill arguing over the significance of loss of memory and the passage of time.
This post is also about loss of memory. On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, during the Supreme Court's first day of oral arguments in the new term, the justices will hear the case of Madison v. Alabama. The capitol crime in question occurred in 1985, and the proceedings following imposition of the death penalty have been technical and portracted, involving detailed forensic evaluations. Here is a summary from the ABA Journal:
“It is undisputed that Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia as a result of multiple serious strokes in the last two years and no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed,” said the stay application filed by his lawyers with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
“His mind and body are failing,” the filing continued. “He suffers from encephalomalacia [dead brain tissue], small vessel ischemia, speaks in a dysarthric or slurred manner, is legally blind, can no longer walk independently, and has urinary incontinence as a consequence of damage to his brain.”
On Feb. 26, over the objections of Alabama state officials, the high court granted full review of Madison’s case, based on the questions of whether the Eighth Amendment and relevant court precedents permit a state to execute someone who whose mental disability leaves him without memory of his commission of the capital offense, and whether evolving standards of decency bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes.
The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have jointly filed an amicus brief addressing the use of brain imaging to diagnose severe vascular injuries and describing reliable methods used to detect any potential for a feigned impairment in this case. They contend the assessment methods used in this instance leave "no doubt that Mr. Madison lacks a rational understanding," such that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment.
For purposes of the legal issues identified by the Court, the State of Alabama largely concedes the mental disability and the absence of memory of the commision of the capital offense, but contends that valid "penological interests in punishing a murder exist."