On Wednesday, the Supreme Court clarified the circumstances in which a person with a mental disability may die.
The government can execute the prison even if you do not remember the crime, the court said. But he cannot execute the prisoner if he does not understand why he "pronounced" to die, the high court said in decision 5-3. If a person suffering from dementia is unable to understand the reasons for his / her enforcement, the court has found that the killing of the prisoner is unconstitutional.
The court has blocked the execution of 68-year-old Vernon Madison, who suffers from dementia, and asked for a lower court to determine whether Madison would "rationally understand" why he was dead.
Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who disputed Madison's case, said he was "excited" with the decision. "Dementia and prisoners who become incompetent due to severe mental illness are vulnerable and need to be protected from abusive and cruel treatment," said Stevenson. "The Court's opinion that humanity's justice system is a fundamental principle is a major victory."
Madison spent more than 30 years in Alabama until the execution. In 1985, he shot and killed the police, who answered Madison and his girlfriend.
Finally, he was sentenced to death, Madison had more strokes, had vascular dementia, and had no memory of the crime, his lawyer says. The Supreme Court decided to investigate whether Madison's violation of the US Constitution's eighth amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment".
He does not remember the crime, not an obstacle to enforcement, the court said in his decision. “However, a person who does not remember the crime can reasonably understand why the state wants to execute him; if so, the eighth amendment is not an obstacle to its implementation, ”wrote Elena Kagan.
"Is there a separate memory of the Civil War? Obviously not. But we are still able to rational – and even sophisticated – understand this conflict and its consequences," wrote Kagan. – Do you remember your first school day? Probably not. But if your mother told you many years later that you came home to hit a classmate, you won't have the trouble to grab the story.
Thus, memory loss alone will not prevent execution. However, Kagan wrote, "if this loss unites and interacts with other mental deficiencies to deprive the person of understanding why the state is punishing death, then enforcement is unconstitutional." "The court's exclusive investigation continues to provide a rational understanding of the reasons for the death penalty."
The diagnosis of dementia is not enough to trigger the eighth amendment, the court said. "Dementia also has milder forms that allow a person to retain this understanding," why the state wants to implement him, wrote Kagan. The Eighth Amendment prohibits it only if the dementia patient does not “understand rationally” the reasons for implementation.
Not only would he "violate humanity" that someone "suffers from a mental illness" that he does not understand why he is killed, the court said; it is not a "retreating value" to execute someone who "does not understand the meaning of the judgment of the community".
The opinion was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and John Roberts, who recently joined the Liberal Judiciary in a few tight cases. Conservative judges, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch resisted. It was claimed that Madison's lawyer had been wrongly "completely different" than the court had agreed. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who did not sit in the argument, did not take part in the decision.