As February came to close, the United States Supreme Court took a major step ruled that executing a person with dementia or other mental conditions was cruel and unusual punishment, protecting their Eighth Amendment rights.
Art for Justice grantee Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative represented Vernon Madison, 68, who Alabama wanted to execute despite him suffering from severe vascular dementia, making him unable to remember why he was on death row.
“We are thrilled that today the Court recognized that people with dementia like Vernon Madison, who cannot consistently orient to time and place, are protected from execution and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment,” Stevenson said.
In a 5-3 decision, the Court decided that when a person is unable to reach a rational understanding of the reason for their execution, it is unconstitutional to execute them. This is a major step forward in protecting the rights of people with memory disorders.