CLEVELAND (AP) — Jurors in the Ohio case of a man convicted of killing three women whose bodies were found wrapped in garbage bags began hearing arguments Thursday on whether he should receive the death penalty.
The troubled background of Michael Madison, including reports of childhood beatings and malnourishment, was likely to frame arguments by defense attorneys that his life be spared.
Madison, 38, was convicted last week in a Cleveland courtroom of aggravated murder and kidnapping, charges that include death penalty specifications.
Prosecutors said Madison deserves to die for murdering 38-year-old Angela Deskins, 28-year-old Shetisha Sheeley and 18-year-old Shirellda Terry, whose bodies were found in July 2013 wrapped in garbage bags near the East Cleveland apartment building where Madison lived. A medical examiner ruled that Deskins and Sheeley were strangled, but couldn’t determine how Terry died.
Authorities said Madison confessed to killing two of the women after his arrest, but couldn’t recall having killed the third. His attorneys conceded at trial that he had killed the women.
The same jury that convicted Madison now will decide his fate, with the judge having the final say. In Ohio, a judge can reject a death sentence, but can’t impose one if a jury doesn’t vote for it.
If appeals court documents are any indication, Madison’s attorneys will argue that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from abuse when he was a young child.
Madison was beaten by his mother and stepfather during the early 1980s when he was around 3 or 4 years old, according to a summary of an investigative report prepared by the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.
An investigation found that Madison’s mother beat him with a cord, picked him up by his hair and gave him a black eye. He also was malnourished. The report said his stepfather beat him for not picking up his toys, and he was sent to live with his grandmother.
PTSD is a recognized mental disorder with a long list of criteria for a qualified diagnosis, some of which are subjective, according to Cleveland-based forensic psychiatrist Sara West. Jurors must decide the significance of the disorder if PTSD is one of the facts Madison’s attorneys present in favor of sparing him.
“It’s not a psychotic disorder,” West said. “It doesn’t alter one’s perception of reality.”
A doctor in 2010 diagnosed Madison with depression, sleep disturbance and anxiety. His attorneys have said he has drug and alcohol dependence.
Those convicted of crimes punishable by death often face long odds at sentencing, said University of Dayton law professor Lori Shaw. Jurors have already indicated that they’re not opposed to the death penalty and, as in the Madison case, have seen and heard grisly testimony about horrific killings, Shaw said.
Even if Madison is sentenced to die, an execution would be years off. The state currently doesn’t have execution drugs and the Supreme Court already has scheduled more than two dozen executions into 2019.