Top US court halts murderer's execution

WASHINGTON • 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, 67, has spent over three decades on death row for killing Corporal Julius Schulte, a police officer in the city of Mobile. In the appeal this week, Madison's lawyers said he is not competent to be executed because he is legally blind, cannot walk without assistance and is unable to recall the murder or understand his punishment.

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

In 2016, the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Madison was no longer legally eligible to be executed because of his memory loss. But the US Supreme Court in November reversed that decision, saying court precedent had not established "that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime".

But in its latest ruling, the Supreme Court said "the application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice (Clarence) Thomas and by him referred to the court is granted pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari", without elaborating on the reason for its decision.

Alabama prison spokesman Bob Horton said the state will not execute Madison as planned because of the US Supreme Court order.

According to court records, Madison killed Cpl Schulte during a domestic dispute between Madison and his girlfriend. Madison appeared to leave his girlfriend's home, but crept up behind the officer, who was on duty, and shot him twice.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Top US court halts murderer's execution'. Print Edition | Subscribe