Death Row Inmate Claims To Not Remember Murder Due To Mental Illness

Death Row Inmate Claims To Not Remember Murder Due To Mental Illness


Two cases this Fall may require The Supreme
Court to step in and decided whether states can execute murderers suffering from mental
illness, and who no longer, allegedly, no longer remember their crimes. Joining me to talk about this is Mollye Barrows
Legal Journalist for The Trial Lawyer Magazine. Look, the case that’s going up involves Vernon
Madison. Yes. Okay, so Vernon Madison he’s been locked up
for more than 33 years. Mobile Alabama is where he killed Julius Schulte. And so, The Supreme Court is going to hear
whether or not we should go ahead and carry out the execution because Vernon says well
I don’t remember everything. Right. I would imagine that the family of Julius
Schulte says we don’t really care- If he remembers. … whether you remember or not. You killed my father. You killed my husband. Right. What’s your take? Right. Just because you don’t remember doesn’t mean
he’s not dead, or we don’t remember. Right, exactly. Yes, he was convicted in 1985 of killing the
man that you just said. He was an Alabama police officer. He had a number of appeals for a variety of
reasons. There were a couple of different issues with
the sentencing itself, so he appealed it in 2015. That appeal was upheld. During that time he had a series of strokes. His health continued to deteriorate, and now
he’s got a form of dementia. And although he knows that he is being executed
for murdering someone he has no other memories of the crime. He can’t even recite the alphabet. His attorneys are saying it’s cruel and unusual
punishment to kill a man who basically you’re not gonna get any retribution for his crime
because he doesn’t even remember what he did. Well, okay. But let’s talk about retribution. First of all, it’s more than retribution,
isn’t it? The death penalty also surrounds the idea
of deterrence. Right. I mean that’s one of the things that they’re
arguing in Mobile, and they’re arguing in Alabama is look we don’t really care whether
he remembers exactly the horrible thing that he did. He’s lived for 33 years longer than the victim. That’s the argument. You’re right. We don’t really care whether he doesn’t know
all the details. We’re not even sold on the idea that he doesn’t
remember. And so, I mean it’s kind of … And plus they
raised the issue, look, if the laws were right he wouldn’t have lived for 33 years. We would’ve killed him two years after he
killed Julius Schulte. These are the arguments that are surfacing. They always come up, don’t they? Yeah. With every single on of these cases it comes
up for The Supreme Court dealing with the death penalty. They’ve got another case coming up in November,
which is similar in nature although this particular inmate isn’t claiming dementia. He’s basically saying I’ve got this other
series of health problems, which include these blood filled blisters, if you will. I know it’s gross, but he’s saying if you
strap me to the gurney I’m gonna suffocate on my own blood. Long story short, these are aging inmates
that are on death row. It creates a variety of reasons, which all
go to either cruel and unusual punishment, in the minds of a defense attorney, or as
you were saying there’s still some value for retribution. But they’re saying there isn’t any value in
retribution because the deterrent factor is gone when they’re medically disabled, or somehow
physically disabled. Well, but the deterrent to the public, you
see. Right. We know that Madison lived for 33 years after
he killed Julius Schulte whose family had to live through that. Right. And now Julius is dead, and this guy’s lived
another 33 years. These are the arguments coming out of the
court right now. This is what The Supreme Court is gonna hear. Now The Supreme Court has already heard two
earlier decisions. Right. Give me a run down on the decision. How do they impact? Well, basically the bottom line is The Supreme
Court says you can’t kill anyone who is mentally disabled, who isn’t aware of what they’ve
done. In these particular cases there is some level
of awareness. Right. At least for Vernon Madison. Russell Bucklew is not even saying that he
didn’t kill the person. He’s just saying that he’s protesting the
method by how they’re gonna do it. Yeah. He actually offered them up, hey will you
kill me by the gas chamber instead? The appeals court said no you didn’t really
show us that, that’s gonna be any better for you then the lethal injection. He’s saying, look I know you’re gonna- Kill me. … execute me. Right. I’d rather go by gas chamber than I would
lethal injection. So, I don’t suffocate in my own blood is his
argument. But it is interesting because if you go back
to the deterrent question and I think that’s why, the point of this particular article
that I read in The Atlantic anyway, was bringing it up because the appeals process takes so
long you end up having these murderers have more value and attention in the court system
than the victims themselves. It’s the same issues that come up, and is
it really a deterrent to sit on death row for 30 years. Right. Whatever the reason is. Right, right. Whatever technicality you find to appeal on. And let’s face it- A prediction. Case number one that you described- Yes. Vernon Madison loses. It looks like it’s going in that direction. You’re right. I really feel he loses. I think case number two probably they’re gonna
give this guy some kind of choice maybe that could be determined as cruel and unusual. I think he has got a better shot than case
number one. We got just a couple of minutes. Sure. The bottom line to this argument coming out
of Mobile is that it’s irrelevant. It’s irrelevant whether the person remembers
all the details, or not. It doesn’t make any difference. Right. What’s your take on that? If it’s irrelevant? I think the whole issue of the death penalty
really, to a great extent is irrelevant. If it’s about deterrent then we need to come
up with a system that makes it more of a deterrent because if you’re a person committing a crime
(A) like you said earlier, they may not necessarily think they’re gonna get caught, and if they
are caught then they have this whole legal system that basically values the murderer
over the victim because they put so many resources into helping with appeals, and this, that,
and the other, and in some cases it may be warranted and justified. Yeah. It’s a tough one. Mollye, thanks for joining me. Remember my predictions. Number one- I remember it. I don’t believe he’s gonna make it. I think you’re right. Number two you got some possibilities there. Thanks, Pap.