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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Alabama death row inmate loses state appeal, days after federal court says he can't be executed

Vernon Madison
Vernon Madison
The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied the appeal of Alabama Death Row inmate Vernon Madison, just two days after a federal court said he was incompetent and couldn't be executed anyway.

Madison, 66, is one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates. He was convicted in the April 1985 slaying of Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in December denied Madison's appeal that his sentence was unconstitutional under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from a case (Hurst v. Florida) in January 2016. The court ruled that juries, not judges, should decide whether a capital murder defendant is eligible for the death penalty.

Alabama authorities say that Alabama's law is different. While Alabama judges can decide to override jury recommendations for life without parole and instead impose the death penalty, the juries first decide whether aggravating circumstances exist to make a case death penalty eligible with their unanimous guilty verdict.

Madison's lawyers appealed the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday, with Justice Glenn Murdock dissenting, denied Madison's petition for certiorari (or review).

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday had ruled that Madison is mentally incompetent and can't be executed.

Last May the appeals court halted Madison's execution, hours before he was set to die, in order to consider his appeal of a state court's ruling that he was competent to be executed.

Madison was convicted and sentenced to death in both 1985 and 1990, but both times an appellate court sent the case back, first for a violation involving race-based jury selection and then based on improper testimony from an expert witness for the prosecution.

A doctor hired by Madison's attorneys with the Equal Justice Initiative, Dr. John Goff, had testified at a state competency trial in 2016 that Madison does not understand why he is being executed or the act for which he is being punished, according to the 11th Circuit opinion.

Madison has suffered strokes resulting in significant cognitive and physical decline, according to the appeals court ruling.

Source: al.com, Kent Faulk, March 17, 2017

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