SCOTUS OKs Execution of Man Who Can't Remember Crime

Vernon Madison understands he was convicted of murder, high court rules
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2017 7:48 PM CST
SCOTUS OKs Execution of Man Who Can't Remember Crime
This undated file photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Vernon Madison, who is scheduled to be executed for the 1985 murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte.   (Alabama Department of Corrections, via AP, File)

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, 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. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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