[3/5/19] – Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Death Row Inmate with Dementia

The U.S. Supreme Court sent a death-row case back to the lower courts on February 27th, ruling in favor of Vernon Madison, a death row inmate who claims he can no longer remember his crime due to vascular dementia. According to the ruling, the state of Alabama cannot execute a convicted murderer who cannot remember the crime due to a mental disorder. It is now up to the Alabama court to evaluate Madison’s understanding of the punishment. The ruling demonstrates how the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment is applied to inmates, and it highlights the contentious nature of capital punishment in the United States.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Death Row Inmate with Dementia 












  • Writing: How prevalent is capital punishment in the United States?
  • Debate: Vernon Madison should still be executed for the crime he committed.
  • Poll: Do you believe that executing an individual with dementia is cruel and unusual punishment?
  • Short Answer: What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment?


Current Events Quiz

1.Vernon Madison suffers from ______.

a. dementia

b. schizophrenia

c. Bipolar disorder

d. Alzheimer’s


2. Vernon Madison is an inmate in which of the following states?

a. North Carolina

b. Georgia

c. Texas

d. Alabama


3. Capital punishment is legal in ______ states.

a. 31

b. 42

c. 45

d. 50


  1. Vernon Madison was sentenced to death for killing a police officer in 1985. (T/F)


  1. According to Justice Elena Kagan, a faulty memory alone triggers protections of the Eighth Amendment. (T/F)


  1. The Alabama state court must assess Vernon Madison’s competency and ensure that if he is to be executed, that he understands why. (T/F)


Featured Image: iStock.com/P_Wei

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