In April 1985, police officer Julius Schulte was shot and killed. The police account stated that Schulte was responding to a domestic disturbance call at the time. He asked the culprit, Vernon Madison, to leave the property as he looked after the woman he was living with, Cheryl Ann Greene, and her 11-year-old daughter. Madison pretended to leave, but instead retrieved a pistol, crept behind Schulte's car and shot him in the back of the head. After this, he shot Greene as she fled from the scene.
Madison, now 67 years old, has been on death row for decades now - with his execution planned for last Thursday. The lethal injection procedure was set to happen at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore last week, but a temporary stay of execution was granted by the US Supreme Court only 30 minutes before.
His ultimate fate is undecided, but the defence argued that it would be unconstitutional to follow through on this "cruel and unusual punishment", given the fact that Madison has no memory of the crimes he committed.
Madison's first two convictions were thrown out due to racial discrimination in the jury selection, in addition to other misconduct by prosecutors. However, in his third trial in 1994, he was sentenced to death. In the decades he has spent on death row, he has suffered several strokes, which have now left him blind, unable to walk without aid, with speaking problems, and dementia.
His lawyers at the Equal Justice Initiative have argued that he has been left unable to remember his crimes or understand the punishment given. According to AL.com, the EJI request stated:
"It is undisputed that Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia as a result of multiple serious strokes in the last two years and no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed.
"[He] does not rationally understand why the State of Alabama is attempting to execute him"
The law dictates that executing those with severe mental illnesses or other cognitive impairments would violate their rules on "cruel and unusual punishment", but it is still to be decided whether this case matches up with these definitions.
In 2016, the Alabama-based Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his memory loss made him ineligible for execution. However, the Supreme Court overturned this last November. At the time they stated that there is no precedent for the idea that "a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime".
It seems that these recent health developments may change their view on the matter. "It is disappointing that justice is again delayed for the victim's family," Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement Friday morning. "The State opposes Madison's delay tactics and will continue to pursue the execution of his death sentence."
Madison's attorneys are currently awaiting clarifications from the court to see whether this temporary stay becomes a permanent one.