Alabama set to execute inmate in '85 police officer killing

Vernon Madison                        WKRG

The United States Supreme Court has halted the planned execution of an Alabama man convicted of murdering a police officer in 1985 after attorneys petitioned to spare the man's life, arguing that he had suffered several strokes that left him unable to remember the crime.

Vernon Madison, 66, was convicted for the April 1985 murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte. Prosecutors have said that Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police vehicle.

During his first two trials, Madison argued that his mental illness drove him to act and that he wasn't guilty as a result. At his third trial, he argued self-defense.

Madison's attorneys filed that petition focused on the issue of judicial override in Alabama.

His attorneys this week argued a judge should not have sentenced Madison to death when jurors recommended life imprisonment.

"His mind and body are failing", lawyers wrote in the petition.

Michael Schulte, the slain officer's son, said Friday that last-minute execution stays - the second Madison has received within two years - have been hard for his family and mean "this tragedy isn't finished". They also say his health is declining.

The U.S. Supreme Court later opened the way for the execution to proceed. In the appeal this week, Madison's lawyers said he is not competent to be executed because he is legally blind, can not walk without assistance and is unable to recall the murder or understand his punishment.

Courts have been divided over Madison's case.

The Alabama attorney general's office told justices in a filing Monday that the state's high court past year ruled the execution could proceed and should do so again.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that condemned inmates must have a "rational understanding" why they are being executed.

CNN reached out to the governor's office and the state's Attorney General's office but didn't get a response.

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.

The Supreme Court ordered the the stay to remain until justices decide whether they will grant Madison's writ of certiorari, or if they will review the case.

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