Aging death row: Is executing old or infirm inmates cruel?

Vernon Madison (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

Vernon Madison has escaped another execution date in Alabama.

Thursday night's execution was called off after the Supreme Court of the United States issued a stay. According to the Supreme Court order, the stay was granted "pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari."

Madison shot Mobile police officer Julius Schulte in the back of the head in 1985.

Madison's attorneys filed that petition focused on the issue of judicial override in Alabama. When Madison was convicted in 1994, the jury recommended life in prison, but the judge in that case sentenced Madison to death.

In 2017, Alabama ended judicial override. Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law giving juries the final say on whether or not to sentence someone to death.

Madison's attorneys argue that because a death sentence is no longer allowed in cases where a jury recommends death, executing him would violate his constitutional rights. Madison's attorneys also fought the execution by saying a series of strokes have left him with dementia. They say he no longer understands why he's being 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.

On Friday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a statement in response to the stay.

Marshall said: “After prior rulings that Vernon Madison is competent to face execution for the murder of a Mobile police officer 32 years ago – a cold blooded crime for which there is no doubt he is guilty – it is disappointing that justice is again delayed for the victim’s family. The State opposes Madison’s delay tactics and will continue to pursue the execution of his death sentence.”

Madison is now 67.

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