Supreme Court could limit execution of people with dementia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court appears willing to extend protection from capital punishment to people with dementia who can’t recall their crime or understand the circumstances of their execution.

The justices heard arguments on Tuesday in the case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison. He killed a police officer in 1985, but has suffered strokes that his lawyers say have left him with severe dementia.

The high court has previously said the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment means that people who are insane, delusional or psychotic cannot be executed.

A ruling for Madison probably would mean a new hearing in state court, not a determination that rules out his execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices seemed most willing to rule for Madison.

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