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.
My opinion in Madison v. Alabama is available at this link. In short, I would hold that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a prisoner who does not rationally understand the circumstances of his execution and the reasons for which he is being put to death.