The U.S. Supreme Court late last month stayed the execution of Vernon Madison, less than an hour before it was to take place on January 25, and agreed to review his case. Madison was sent to Alabama’s death row 33 years ago after being convicted of killing Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte in April 1985.
In their application for a stay, Madison’s lawyers from the Equal Justice Initiative argued that Madison is not competent to be executed because he “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.” They added that he is legally blind, cannot walk independently, and is incontinent.
This is the second time Madison’s execution has been stayed. In May 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a stay finding that Madison had no memory of the crime, and was incompetent to be executed. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that order, and the state set a new execution date for January 25. But armed with new evidence, and after being denied relief again by the state court, Madison’s lawyers filed another request for a stay to the high Court, which was granted.
The lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to address the “urgent and compelling question about whether the Eighth Amendment permits the execution of someone with demential and acute cognitive decline,” and are further challenging the constitutionality of Madison’s sentence because it was imposed by a judge after a jury recommended a sentence of life without parole. His lawyers have argued that sentence should be commuted in light of a 2017 law banning judicial override.