Law Hub

Dunn v. Madison

Justia Summary

More than 30 years ago, Madison shot a police officer in the head at close range. An Alabama jury found Madison guilty of capital murder. In 2016, he sought suspension of his death sentence, arguing that, due to recent strokes, he has become incompetent. The court heard testimony from psychologists who had examined Madison. The court’s appointed psychologist reported that, although Madison may have “suffered a significant decline post-stroke, . . . [he] understands the exact posture of his case,” and appears to have a “rational understanding ” of his death sentence. A psychologist hired by Madison’s counsel reported that Madison “able to understand the nature of the pending proceeding and … what he was tried for” and that . . . [Alabama is] seeking retribution” for that crime, but Madison cannot recall “the sequence of events from the offense to his arrest to the trial” and believes that he “never went around killing.” The trial court denied Madison’s petition. Madison sought federal habeas relief. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the denial of that petition. The Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the denial, citing its “Panetti” and “Ford” holdings. Neither decision “clearly established” that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime, as distinct from a failure to rationally comprehend the concepts of crime and punishment as applied to him. The state court did not unreasonably apply those decisions in holding that Madison is competent to be executed because he recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed. Nor was the state court’s decision founded on an unreasonable assessment of the evidence.

About Author