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.
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 »