Death row inmate with dementia gets stay of execution

Vernon Madison

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted an Alabama inmate a stay of execution, CNN reports.

Vernon Madison, 67, has spent over three decades on death row for killing Corporal Julius Schulte, a police officer in the city of Mobile. Madison's lawyer says strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to understand his looming execution.

While Madison's execution was briefly in limbo, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn was informed at about 8 p.m. the stay would not be lifted, effectively voiding Madison's death warrant, which expired at midnight.

In 1985, Schulte had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend. Though the jury recommended a sentence of life in prison during the sentencing phase of his trial, Judge Ferrill McRae overrode their decision and sentencing him to death.

The court delayed the execution to consider whether to further review the case.

"No state now allows a judge to override a jury's capital sentencing verdict", says the cert petition filed by Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Justices noted then that federal courts' review of Madison's case is constrained because of a 1996 law meant to limit federal judges' second-guessing of state court decisions.

In 2016, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted Madison's execution seven hours before he was scheduled for a lethal injection.

"He does not understand why the state of Alabama is attempting to execute him", they said.

The son of a slain Alabama police officer said Friday that his father should not be forgotten as the US Supreme Court and media focus on legal wrangling over whether his father's killer is competent to be executed. The stay is in effect while the court decides how to rule on an appeal from the defense.

Alabama lawmakers past year abolished the practice of allowing judges to override a jury's recommendation in capital cases.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in November reversed that decision, saying court precedent had not established "that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime".

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were opposed to the stay, according to the order issued last night.

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