In 1985, Vernon Madison shot and killed Mobile, Ala., police officer Julius Schulte after Schulte responded to a domestic call involving Madison; prosecutors say he crept up on the officer as he sat in his police car and shot him twice in the back of the head, the AP reports. In the ensuing decades, Madison, variously reported to be either 66 or 67, has suffered several strokes and says he cannot remember the crime that sent him to Alabama's death row, where he is one of the longest-serving inmates. But on Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled the state can execute him regardless of that, the New York Times reports. "Madison is competent to be executed because—notwithstanding his memory loss—he recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed," the court wrote.
Hours before Madison was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last year, he was granted a stay by a lower court and the Supreme Court upheld that stay, AL.com reports. In Monday's ruling, the high court reversed that decision. Though the decision was unanimous, three justices wrote concurring opinions noting that the court should return to the legal questions raised by Madison's case; they simply didn't find his case an appropriate vehicle to address those questions. Justice Stephen Breyer, for example, pointed out that the "unconscionably long periods of time" that prisoners often spend awaiting execution could be a constitutional problem, as "we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age," the Washington Post reports. Alabama is seeking a new execution date, WKRG reports. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)