FederalismThe ConstitutionDomestic Public PolicyAmerican Government

Capital Punishment


The Supreme Court will hear the case of Vernon Madison, a 68 year-old man sentenced to death in Alabama. Mr. Madison now has dementia. As The Economist notes: “No one disputes that Mr. Madison killed a police officer in 1985 or that strokes he suffered in 2015 and 2016 have taken a grave toll on his mind. But while Alabama insists its prisoner is competent to be executed, Mr. Madison’s lawyers argue otherwise.”

Instructors, click the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt and a debate question as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Capital Punishment


“U.S. Supreme Court hears case of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison”

“Supreme Court appears sympathetic to death row prisoner who cannot remember his crime”

“Supreme Court hears arguments over death row inmate with dementia”

“Supreme Court stays execution of inmate who lawyers say is not competent”

“U.S. Supreme Court to decide if Alabama can execute prisoner with vascular dementia and no memory of the crime”

“Argument analysis: A narrow victory possible for death-row inmate with dementia?”

“America should do away with the death penalty”

“With death penalty, let punishment truly fit the crime”

“Top 10 pro & con arguments: Should the death penalty be allowed?”

“Should a state execute a killer so impaired he no longer recalls the crime?”


  • Writing: Describe the reasons why the Vernon Madison case is before the Supreme Court.
  • Debate: The death penalty is anachronistic and should be abolished.
  • Poll: How many of you think the death penalty should continue to be used as a form of punishment for the taking of an innocent life?
  • Short Answer: List the reasons why some believe putting a man with dementia to death violates the Constitution.

Current events quiz:

1) If Vernon Madison, a man from Mobile, Alabama, was found to be incompetent, his execution would violate portions of which two Constitutional Amendments?

a. Fourth and Eighth
b. Eighth and Fourteenth
c. First and Fourth
d. First and Eighth

2) There are currently about ________ death row inmates in the United States.

  1. 3,000
  2. 3,500
  3. 5,000
  4. 4,000

3) Which of the following are some of the factors that ProCon.org cites as coming into play when discussing the pros and cons of the death penalty?

  1. ethics, morality, and legality
  2. constitutionality, gender, and retribution
  3. deterrence, retribution, and race
  4. both B and C

4) Conservatives and/or Republicans are notoriously against the death penalty, since they believe it gives the government too much power over the people. (T/F)

5) Vernon Madison has been on death row for over thirty years. (T/F)

6) Vernon Madison was in prison when he suffered four strokes, which attorneys believe has severely impacted his memory and overall competency. (T/F)


1) B

2) A

3) C

4) False

5) True

6) False

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