The U.S. Supreme Court intervened in an execution Jan. 25, roughly 30 minutes before the state was scheduled to carry out the death sentence of 67-year-old Vernon Madison, convicted of the 1985 capital murder of Mobile Police Officer Julius Schulte.
The temporary stay was ordered at around 5:30 p.m. to allow the court to review Madison’s claims of mental incompetency and question the legality of “judicial override;” the jury in Madison’s third trial recommended life in prison, but former Mobile County Judge Ferrell McRae imposed the death penalty.
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.
In each of his trials, juries determined Madison shot Schulte twice in the head as the officer sat in his patrol car outside Madison’s girlfiriend’s house, where Schulte was responding to a domestic dispute. However, appealate courts overturned Madison’s convictions twice based on prosecutorial misconduct.
More recently, his case has been appealed on the question of the judicial override and Madison’s mental health — his attorney argue two strokes have left him with dementia and the inability to remember the crime for which he was convicted.
No family members for either the condemned or the victim were present for the scheduled execution, and ADOC spokesman Bob Horton said Madision spent the previous 48 hours visiting with and receiving phone calls from family, friends and attorneys. He requested two oranges as his last meal.
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. If they fail to proceed, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office must request a new execution date from the Alabama Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm, who killed a Cullman hotel employee during a robbery in 1987, is scheduled to be executed Feb. 22.
Mobile County currently has 18 inmates on Alabama’s death row, and four capital cases pending. In 2016, it was identified by Harvard University’s Fair Punishment Project as one of 16 counties nationwide “where the death penalty still lives.”
Photo of Vernon Madison courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative.