Vernon Madison v State of Alabama

yaxomoxay

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Since we discuss about walls... it's time to change the topic!

Madison v. Alabama is a case that see me very thorn on the outcome, and what outcome I would like to see (based on laws, not feelings or philosophy).

The basic question (stolen from Wikipedia): The case deals with whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits executing a person for a crime they do not remember.

Some facts from Wikipedia:
  • Vernon Madison shot police officer Julius Schulte twice in the back of the head in Mobile, Alabama on April 1985.
  • Schulte was mediating a domestic disturbance between Madison and his ex-girlfriend; Madison also shot and injured her.
  • Madison is an inmate at Holman Correctional Facility and has been since September 1985
  • Madison had severe strokes in 2015 and 2016, resulting in vascular dementia and inability to remember killing police officer Schulte in 1985.
  • He is blind and has suffered a significant mental decline; he only remembers the alphabet to the letter G and has slurred speech.
  • he understands that he will be executed and the reason for that.
The Docket from Scotusblog is available here; I haven't read it in its entirety, but I plan to: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/madison-v-alabama/

According to the Writ of certiorari the questions are:
  1. Consistent with the Eighth Amendment, and this Court’s decisions in Ford and Panetti, may the State execute a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him without memory of his commission of the capital offense? See Dunn v. Madison, 138 S. Ct. 9, 12 (Nov. 6, 2017)(Ginsburg, J., with Breyer, J., and Sotomayor, J., concurring).
  2. Do evolving standards of decency and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes causing severe cognitive dysfunction and a degenerative medical condition which prevents him from remembering the crime for which he was convicted or understanding the circumstances of his scheduled execution?
Oral argument was on Oct 2, 2018. You can listen to it here: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2018/17-7505#!

What is your opinion? What should the court decide? What will decide in your opinion?

Note: this is not a discussion on the legitimacy of capital punishment; right now, capital punishment in the US is constitutionally legal.
 

raqball

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He murdered the officer in 1985 and was well aware of his actions at the time of the crime. He suffered a stroke 30-years later in 2015....

He had already lived 30 years longer than his victim at the time of the stroke (and counting) so fry him on up.....
 

RichardMZhlubb

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Note: this is not a discussion on the legitimacy of capital punishment; right now, capital punishment in the US is constitutionally legal.
Since I agree with Justices Breyer and Ginsburg that the death penalty, in any form and in any context, is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, I can't really address any particular circumstances where it would be warranted.
 

Solver

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Would it be different now if he claimed his body was just a vessel for a time traveler from the future and must be let go to save all of mankind?

No, unless he could prove it.
 

yaxomoxay

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VulchR

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The only issue I see is whether he can participate in his own defense during appeals. Still, my instinct says some crimes must be punished by death, and shooting a police officer twice in the back of the head seems to me to be one of those crimes. I do not believe that all evil people can be redeemed, nor that we as a society are obliged to suffer them.
 

yaxomoxay

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I suspect that a lot of people aren't commenting because, like myself, they are opposed to death penalty in general. You shut out a lot of people from this thread by the way you set the terms of discussion.
I kinda did it on purpose, obviously I can't enforce any rule. I simply thought that those against death penalty in general are against this automatically.

We can also rephrase the question with this: should we punish (or carry the punishment) someone that lost the memory of the initial crime? (with the assumption that we are sure that the memory was actually lost).
 
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NT1440

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The only issue I see is whether he can participate in his own defense during appeals. Still, my instinct says some crimes must be punished by death, and shooting a police officer twice in the back of the head seems to me to be one of those crimes. I do not believe that all evil people can be redeemed, nor that we as a society are obliged to suffer them.
In that vein, why would a cop only get 20 years for shooting a man in the back then? Why shouldn’t the cop get the death penalty?


Note, I’m entirely against the death penalty, it’s just interesting to me how different people come to their own views of it.
 
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Sydde

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In that vein, why would a cop only get 20 years for shooting a man in the back then? Why shouldn’t the cop get the death penalty?
If you are a student of history, you will be aware that, for a few years in the '70s, capital punishment was under moratorium for almost exactly this reason.
 

VulchR

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In that vein, why would a cop only get 20 years for shooting a man in the back then? Why shouldn’t the cop get the death penalty?


Note, I’m entirely against the death penalty, it’s just interesting to me how different people come to their own views of it.
If one person shoots an unarmed harmless person in the back in a premeditated way, even in the line of duty, I think the possibility of a murder charge must be considered. If there is a conviction, and a state allows it, the possibility of capital punishment should be considered (for instance if the police officer killed becuase they were corrupt). I think, though, that in the case of police the presumption would be that they are not irredeemably evil, so it would be unusual to say the least. I think the death penalty should be the last resort, but some crimes are so awful they must result in a death sentence. The Oklahoma bombing is a case in point.
 

NT1440

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If one person shoots an unarmed harmless person in the back in a premeditated way, even in the line of duty, I think the possibility of a murder charge must be considered. If there is a conviction, and a state allows it, the possibility of capital punishment should be considered (for instance if the police officer killed becuase they were corrupt). I think, though, that in the case of police the presumption would be that they are not irredeemably evil, so it would be unusual to say the least. I think the death penalty should be the last resort, but some crimes are so awful they must result in a death sentence. The Oklahoma bombing is a case in point.
That’s fair, thanks for elaborating your thoughts on that. Like I said, it’s interesting to see people’s reasoning on the matter.

I cringe personally at the use of terms like “evil” when it comes to taking a life. Personally I think those responsible for poisoning thousands of children for life with lead to save a few hundred dollars is a whole different level of evil but no one has called for the death penalty in Flint. Just kind of makes you think.

Enough of my ramblings, I’m loaded up on cold medicine (flu) so some of this may not make much sense.
 

raqball

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We can also rephrase the question with this: should we punish (or carry the punishment) someone that lost the memory of the initial crime? (with the assumption that we are sure that the memory was actually lost).
If they were competent at the time the crime was committed then I don't care what happened to them afterwards.. Hold them accountable! In this instance, fry him on up and make it extra crispy for this particular turd please....
 

vrDrew

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I think there definitely can be made an argument that there are some crimes so horrendous and reprehensible that a Death Penalty is an appropriate punishment.

With that said, I find it very difficult to reconcile that belief with waiting thirty years between the commission of the crime and administration of the (ultimate) sentence. That, in and of itself, constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment." By waiting that long, the State of Alabama has disqualified itself from executing this particular individual. His (now) diminished mental state is but a further argument in that regard.

For obvious reasons there needs to be sufficient time for all reasonable appeals and reconsiderations of any capital case. But I simply cannot understand how that could take more than thirty years, especially as there seems to be no disputing the facts of who pulled the trigger.
 

Sydde

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I think there definitely can be made an argument that there are some crimes so horrendous and reprehensible that a Death Penalty is an appropriate punishment.
But we need a proper sense of scale. When you consider, for instance, the widespread misery caused by the fiendish plots by the executives at Enron, in pursuit of profit for no other justification than that they could, I begin to wonder why capital punishment is not considered appropriate for them. The worst aspect of white collar crime is that the people who carry it out never see their victims. Those avaricious executives need to be put on notice.
 

raqball

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I have another question. Why do we bother having death penalties if we’re only going to apply them 30 years later?
Agree.... The dude should have been fried 30 years ago... If by the death penalty AL means death via old age then I guess we all fall into that category....

Some states fry em faster than others..... Texas for instance zaps em pretty quick...
 

BeeGood

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I consider myself to be “torn” on the death penalty. I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong or unethical, but I think there are inherent problems with it, and this case illustrates one of them.

If it were up to me, I would say no, he should not be executed. Assuming we know for certain that he is so mentally impaired that he doesn’t even remember the crime, executing him serves no punitive purpose and I can’t imagine it serves a public safety one either. Additionally, it seems cruel to execute someone when, from his perspective, he didn’t even commit the crime.

I think we really need to figure out how to speed up the appeals process so things like this don’t happen in the future.