The U.S. Supreme Court ordered a second look at the case of a Death Row prisoner who says he no longer remembers his crimes.
Prisoner Vernon Madison suffered a series of strokes which impaired his memory, CNN.com reported Feb 27. The court ruled previously that no one can be executed who doesn’t understand why.
Madison was convicted for the shooting death of a Mobile, Ala. police officer in 1985. He suffered strokes in 2015 and 2016, and has been diagnosed as having vascular dementia, the story reported.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts. Chief Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority’s opinion: “The state court, we have little doubt, can evaluate such matters better than we. It must do so as the first step in assessing Madison’s competency—and ensuring that if he is to be executed, he understands why.”
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court liberals in a 5-3 vote. This is the second time in six days that Roberts joined the more progressive justices in reaching a decision favorable to a Death Row prisoner, according to Steve Vladeck, a professor of law and CNN Supreme Court analyst.
“I don’t think that’s a sign that the chief’s views on the death penalty have changed, but it’s further evidence that he has become the swing vote on the court’s most divisive cases,” Vladeck said.
Only eight justices had heard the case because Chief Justice Brett Kavanaugh had not been confirmed at the time of the case was argued.
Madison was convicted three times for shooting police Cpl. Julius Schulte during a domestic disturbance call. Madison was on parole and shot Schulte twice in the head, according to court documents. In 1994 a judge sentenced Madison to death after a jury had recommended life without parole.