The case of Vernon Madison, convicted for the 1985 murder of police officer and now on death row in Alabama and suffering from dementia, is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. For a piece examining the law and ethics of executing inmates with dementia, MSN turned to a group of experts which included Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science.
Sarat argued that the increasing length of death row stays, which result in dilemmas about executing the elderly, is possibly because of an increasing distaste with the death penalty itself.
“The usual hypothesis is excessive litigation and people pursuing every avenue of appeals,” he said. Noting that the Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Act of 1996 made it harder to exploit loopholes and delay the process, the more likely scenario is that states don’t go through with these executions because of their questionable popularity, he said.
“When we think of death cases now, we think of DNA and exonerations, disparities in racial justice, botched executions,” Sarat said. “In that context, executing them may seem like less of an imperative.”