October 4, 2018
CNBC quoted Richmond partner John Adams in an Oct. 2 story about the U.S. Supreme Court’s plans to review an Alabama case involving a man sentenced to death for a fatal 1985 police officer shooting that he no longer remembers.
Vernon Madison, convicted of shooting an officer twice in the head, has spent 30 years on death row, is legally blind, has had several strokes and is diagnosed with dementia and memory loss so severe “he doesn’t believe he ever killed anybody,” a doctor says. So the Supreme Court, in Madison v Alabama, will consider whether executing someone who can no longer recall his offense is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited under the Eighth Amendment.
The article cited two noteworthy capital punishment decisions, both authored by recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. In the first, Roper v. Simmons, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in 2005 that executing minors was unconstitutional. In Kennedy v. Louisiana three years later, Kennedy applied the same reasoning in writing for the court majority that putting someone to death for child rape is unconstitutional.
CNBC quoted Adams, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and former chair of McGuireWoods’ Government Investigations and White Collar Litigation Department, from his comments in a recent panel discussion hosted by the Federalist Society.
“It’s just a fact that if you want to know what ‘evolving standards of decency’ have been in the United States for the past 15 years, Justice Kennedy has made that decision,” Adams said.