SCOTUS Grants Madison Stay of Execution

Mobile Police Det. Raymond Grissett right looks at a memorial wall dedicated to fallen police officers. A portrait of Cpl. Julius Schulte is at lower left

The US Supreme Court has halted the planned execution of an Alabama inmate at the last minute because his lawyers say he is suffering from dementia.

Vernon Madison, 67, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection for the killing of a police officer in Mobile in 1985.

Madison's attorneys argued that strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to remember killing Schulte or fully understand his looming execution.

His death by lethal injection was planned for 18:00 local time on Thursday and would have been the second scheduled execution in the United States this year.

Madison suffers from vascular dementia, "encephalomacia (dead brain tissue), small vessel ischemia, speaks in a dysarthric or slurred manner, is legally blind, can no longer walk independently, and has urinary incontinence as a outcome of damage to his brain". Schulte had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend.

A law enacted in Alabama a year ago eliminates the ability of judges to override juries' recommendations in capital cases.

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

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Madison's attorneys said the state is trying to execute a man who 'no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed'.

If the U.S. Supreme Court's stay of execution is lifted, the Alabama Attorney General would need to request a new execution date from the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has generally been suspicious of judge-imposed executions. Alabama lawmakers in 2017 changed the law to no longer allow a judge to override a jury's sentence recommendation in death penalty-eligible cases.

They said in their petition that the state failed to disclose that a court-appointed psychologist who evaluated Madison was addicted to narcotics and had been suspended from his practice for forging prescriptions, making his findings invalid.

About two and a half hours later, the high court announced that a stay had been granted while the court decides what to do with an appeal from the defense.

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

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