The SCOTUS Lineup on the Death Penalty
// Crime and Consequences Blog
The Supreme Court today announced a unanimous per curiam opinion in Dunn v. Madison. I'll repeat the Heritage Foundation's summary of the case:
[T]he Court reversed a decision of the Eleventh Circuit in an Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) case. AEDPA provides that a state prisoner is entitled to federal habeas relief only if the state trial court's adjudication of the prisoner's claim "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law." In this case, an Alabama trial court sentenced Vernon Madison to death for murdering a police officer. Awaiting execution, Madison suffered several strokes and petitioned for habeas, asserting that he had become incompetent to be executed. Experts testified that although Madison could not remember the "sequence of events from the offense to his arrest to the trial or any of those details," he did understand he was "tried and imprisoned for murder and that Alabama will put him to death as punishment for that crime." The district court denied Madison's petition but the Eleventh Circuit reversed. Today, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that no Supreme Court precedent has "'clearly established' that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime, as distinct from a failure to rationally comprehend the concepts of crime and punishment as applied in his case."Ginsburg, joined by Breyer and Sotomayor concurred, writing that while AEDPA precludes consideration of the question in this case, the question of "whether a State may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of him commission of a capital offense" "warrant[s] full airing." Breyer also concurred, writing separately to (once again) call into question the "unconscionably long periods of time that prisoners often spend on death row awaiting execution."
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