Inside Deryl Madison's life on death row and being saved weeks before execution

Eve Edwards August 30, 2022
Inside Deryl Madison's life on death row and being saved weeks before execution


The third instalment of the documentary series I Am A Killer has just been released on Netflix introducing viewers to the case of Deryl Madison.

WARNING: Spoilers and content of a disturbing nature ahead

I Am A Killer gives death row inmates the opportunity to tell their stories, giving firsthand accounts of the crime that landed them behind bars for the remainder of their days. It’s pretty gruesome, so be wary as a first-time watcher.

Each episode introduces viewers to a new inmate and explores their crime. Episode 2 introduces Deryl Madison and touches on how the criminal justice system interacts with anti-capital punishment advocates.

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Deryl Madison’s crime lands him a life sentence

Screenshot from Netflix Media Player: I Am A Killer

Deryl Wayne Madison was born on August 29, 1958 in Monroe, Louisiana. For the past 33 years, the now-64 year old has been incarcerated. He is referred to as Inmate #1585559 in the documentary series.

Although he was born in Louisiana, he grew up in Texas. Madison’s mother was a registered nurse.

On April 2, 1988, Deryl Wayne Madison fatally stabbed 81-year-old Beulah Jolivet. He was found guilty of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. At the time of the crime, Madison claims he suffered from a psychotic episode.

“I want to say it was another person,” Madison tells the cameras in the episode.

“I feel there was someone else inside of me, besides me”.

He also reveals how he engaged with arson throughout his life, setting fire to buildings at the age of 12 and 13. Madison even set his own house on fire and proceeded to sleep in the burning home.

During his trial, Dr Wendall Dickerson defended Deryl Madison, diagnosing him with asocial personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder. As we learn in the episode, currently in the United States, more than 135,000 people incarcerated for murder. Of that figure, more than 25% of them have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

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Anti-capital punishment advocates come to Deryl’s defence

I Am A Killer key art. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

In the state of Texas, the death penalty is considered for all capital murder cases. Deryl Madison’s lawyers submitted mitigating evidence during the trial to argue against the death penalty sentence. But despite hearing this mitigating evidence, the jury sentenced Madison to death on June 23, 1989.

Anti-capital punishment advocates became involved with Deryl Madison’s case after Madison wrote to Michela Mancini in 1995. Michela Mancini is the vice-president of The Italian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Her organization works to help prisoners, especially in the United States, who are facing capital punishment. Mancini and Madison became friends over the years.

Michela Mancini first visited Madison in 1996. She describes him as “part of [her] family” in the Netflix documentary. When Mancini found out a date had been set for Deryl Madison’s execution, she secured him the help of law firm Mayer Brown.

Where is Deryl Madison now?

Deryl Wayne Madison remains held in Michael, a facility in Tennessee Colony, Texas to this day.

In 2001, Mayer Brown took on Deryl Madison’s case, just three weeks before he was scheduled to be executed on death row. Madison had been sitting on death row for almost two decades before a date was selected.

The law firm initially obtained a stay on the execution and later secured an agreement with the Harris Country DA to permanently remove the punishment of execution. They made the announcement that execution was off the table on July 24, 2009.

Deryl Madison will spend the rest of his life behind bars on a life sentence without chance of parole.

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About I Am A Killer season 3

If you’re only just starting the third season of I Am A Killer, then there is plenty of chilling cases headed your direction. There are six episodes in total in season 3, each exploring the case of a convicted killer.

Besides Deryl Madison, the documentary series looks at the cases of Victoria Smith, Daniel Paulsrud, James Walker, David Cameron Keith, and three men who were involved in the fatal shooting of a cab driver.

You can stream all episodes of I Am A Killer on Netflix now.

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Eve Edwards is a staff writer for The Focus who has been with GRV Media since April 2019. Having gained a BA (Hons) in History from the University of Bristol, Eve joined GRV starting out as a writer for Reality Titbit before making her way over to HITC. With a passion for music, TV, and cultural news, Eve eventually found a home at The Focus. Eve spent 2021-2022 freelancing for GRV Media while she completed a Masters in Music Performance, and brings her wide array of interests to the company in her written work. In Eve's spare time you'll find her working her way through the day's Wordle, Heardle, and Quordle, or struggling to complete The Guardian's cryptic crossword.