The Court’s Decision: Madison v. Alabama

In January, I released my opinion in Madison v. Alabama, the Eighth Amendment capital case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison, whose dementia and associated mental illnesses called into question his competency to be executed. In February, the Supreme Court published its decision in the case, in which Justice Elena Kagan wrote for a 5:3 majority that the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause may prohibit the execution of someone with a non-psychotic mental illness, if that mental illness impedes their rational understanding of the reasons for their impending execution. Today, I review the Court’s decision in Madison, including Justice Kagan’s majority opinion and Justice Alito’s dissent.

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Death Penalty Jurisprudence: “Panetti v. Quarterman”

Note: In similar fashion to our methods in reviewing Ford v. Wainwright, we will limit our discussion on a number of the points in the Court’s opinion as they do not specifically pertain to our upcoming decision in Madison.


Last month, we reviewed the Supreme Court’s decision in Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), a capital punishment case from 1986 in which the Court found executing the insane “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment. Ford is also one of the cases directly referenced in the first question presented in our case for October Term 2018, Madison v. Alabama. The other case implicated in Madison is Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007), a capital punishment case decided in 2007 that discussed a strikingly similar question to those presented in Madison. As a result, we now review the Supreme Court’s decision in Panetti.Read More »

Death Penalty Jurisprudence: “Ford v. Wainwright”

In keeping with our common-law judicial system, it would be prudent to review a few of the Supreme Court’s prior cases that discuss executions of those suffering from mental conditions and/or those whose competency to be executed is in question. Indeed, in Madison v. Alabama, the first question presented before the court directly references two such cases (Ford v. Wainwright and Panetti v. Quarterman) and asks whether executing Mr. Madison comports with the Court’s decisions in those two cases. Thus, the first of these cases we will review is Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). In short, Ford discussed whether executing a prisoner who is insane violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause.Read More »

CASE SELECTION 2018: “Madison v. Alabama”

It is official. After four successive weeks of deliberations, SCOTUS Predictions has selected Madison v. Alabama for the case in which we will author our own opinion before the Supreme Court releases theirs. In selecting Madison, we eliminated the two remaining cases from Round 3, Gamble v. U.S. and Timbs v. Indiana. Before we made our final selection, we have combed through (and finally eliminated) the 37 other cases that have been granted certiorari for the Supreme Court’s next term thus far. In other words, Madison v. Alabama stands atop these more than three-dozen others—both in the quality of the legal questions it presents and its implications for the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence. The case is not a straightforward one; its prior proceedings are admittedly inebriated with rehearings and reversals, and its subject matter is neither pleasant nor simple. Regardless, the case will present new definitions of what the law deems “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment, as well as a dramatic increase in the Supreme Court’s death penalty jurisprudence. A background of the events leading to the case are outlined as follows:Read More »

Oral Argument Calendar for October: Effects on “Madison v. Alabama?”

The Supreme Court released its calendar for Oral Arguments for its October Sitting today. Ten cases were set for Oral Argument. Of great importance to us here at SCOTUS Predictions is the latter case on Tuesday, October 2: Madison v. AlabamaMadison is on our shortlist of cases for selection, so if Madison were to be the case selected for our review, it will not be a tremendously long wait until we release our opinion.

Given that our entire mission is to select a case on the Court’s next term and issue an opinion before the Court does, we must be diligent in ensuring that we are not still authoring our opinion when the Court releases theirs for the selected case. As any Court-watcher knows, the public does not know when the Court will release its opinion for each argued case. However, in a report authored by Kedar Bhatia at SCOTUSBlog, the public can get a rough estimate of the span of time between each case’s Oral Argument and its issued Opinion.Read More »