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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Alabama: Vernon Madison Granted Stay of Execution by 11th Circuit

Vernon Madison
Vernon Madison
This morning, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay of execution for Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison.

In March, the State of Alabama had scheduled Mr. Madison's execution for today.

Since that time, EJI lawyers have been asking both state and federal courts to stay Mr. Madison's execution because he is incompetent to be executed. 

As a result of multiple strokes over the last year, and other serious medical conditions, Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia, which has left him unable to rationally understand why the State is seeking to execute him. 

Mr. Madison now speaks in a slurred manner, is legally blind, and can no longer walk independently as a consequence of damage to his brain.

It is unconstitutional to execute an individual who is mentally incompetent. 

Today, the Eleventh Circuit ordered a stay of Mr. Madison's execution so that it could properly consider the claim that his execution would violate the constitution.

Source: Equal Justice Initiative, May 12, 2016


Alabama Delays Execution of Cop Killer Vernon Madison by Lethal Injection

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal appeals court has delayed the execution of an Alabama inmate, saying there should be more time to review his claim that he is no longer competent because of strokes and dementia.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay Thursday morning, about seven hours ahead of when Vernon Madison was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Madison was convicted in the 1985 killing Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte. Schulte had responded to a domestic call involving Madison. Prosecutors said Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Madison's attorneys had argued that he no longer had a rational understanding of his impending execution. The court said it will hold oral arguments on Madison's competency in June.

A circuit court last month ruled Madison was competent to be executed despite a decline in his cognitive abilities after a stroke.

"Over the course of the past year, Mr. Madison has suffered from multiple strokes that have resulted in significant cognitive decline, suffers from a major vascular neurocognitive disorder, or vascular dementia, and does not rationally understand why the State of Alabama is attempting to execute him," attorneys for Madison previously wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute prisoners who lack a rational understanding that they are about to be executed and why.

Madison's attorneys argued a lower court erred and did not fully consider the scope of his dementia when it ruled him competent. A defense expert found that Madison had an IQ of 72 and his attorneys said he is confused about the status of his case and has talked of going to live in Florida when he is released from prison.

The stay request came after an Alabama circuit judge ruled Madison was competent and a federal judge refused a stay.

Alabama has seen a lull in executions of more than two years because of difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs and litigation over the death penalty.

Source: AP, May 12, 2016

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