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SCOTUS: Diagnosis doesn’t matter; states can’t execute defendant who doesn’t understand why he’s being executed

Fortunately, Wisconsin does not have the death penalty. However, On Point readers might find this SCOTUS decision Madison v. Alabama, interesting. The government cannot execute a prisoner who is insane or is so mentally ill that he can’t understand the State’s rationale for executing him. Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986) and Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007).

Alabama understood this to mean that the prisoner had to be suffering from a mental illness as opposed to dementia or stroke. In a 4-3 decision, SCOTUS held that the diagnosis doesn’t matter–the issue is whether the prisoner understands the reasons for his death sentence. It remanded this case for further proceedings on that question. Click here to read Scotusblog’s analysis of the decision.

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