MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to let the state proceed with executing a 67-year-old inmate who lawyers say has suffered strokes and dementia and cannot remember killing a police officer decades ago.
The Alabama attorney general’s office asked justices to reject inmate Vernon Madison’s request for a stay of his lethal injection set for Thursday. Madison’s attorneys have asked justices to review a state court finding that he was competent to be executed.
“Vernon Madison is not insane, nor does he contend that he is insane. Yet, he seeks a stay of execution to permit the Court to review the denial of a petition … that applies solely to a prisoner’s sanity,” attorneys for the state wrote. The state argued the court previously ruled the execution could proceed and Madison has presented nothing new to justify a stay.
Madison was sentenced to death for his conviction in the 1985 killing of Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte. Schulte had responded to a domestic disturbance call involving Madison. Prosecutors have said that Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.
Madison’s lawyers say their client’s health has declined during his decades on death row, adding strokes and dementia have left Madison frequently confused and unable to remember his crime. They also say he is unable to understand his looming execution.
“It is undisputed that Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia as a result of multiple serious strokes in the last two years and no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed. His mind and body are failing,” wrote attorney Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Stevenson argued the court should delay the execution to review whether executing someone in such a mental condition violates evolving standards of decency and a ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Courts have been divided over Madison’s case.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Madison incompetent and, in May 2016, halted Madison’s execution seven hours before he was scheduled to receive a lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the way in November for the execution to proceed. The court, in unsigned opinion, said then that testimony showed Madison “recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed,” even if he doesn’t remember the killing itself.
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