Impact of Defendant’s Inability to Remember His Commission of the Offense on Whether He Should be Executed.
September 6th, 2018

Madison v. Alabama (17-7505) will be argued in the United States Supreme Court on October 2, 2018.


Questions presented:

“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?”


Counsel are Bryan A. Stevenson, Randall S. Susskind & Angela L. Setzer of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery.  The USSC is reviewing a one-page order by a state trial judge rejecting Madison’s claim of incompetency to be executed, an order which was not appealable under state law.  Full-text documents are at


While Madison presents an issue of competency to be executed, the same considerations could make the defendant’s inability to remember the offense a factor in mitigation even if it is not a sufficient basis to find him incompetent. Hence, argument and/or pinpoint instructions could be appropriate under such circumstances.

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