MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 12 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court ordered a temporary stay in the execution of an Alabama inmate convicted in the 1985 shooting death of a Mobile police officer, saying there needs to be more time to review claims several strokes and dementia have left him incompetent.
Vernon Madison's attorneys said the death sentence violates his Eighth Amendment right prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Oral arguments are expected to take place on June 23. Up until now, state and federal judges, including Alabama Supreme Court justices, have rejected his appeals and denied stays of execution.
Madison, one of the state's longest-serving death row inmates, was convicted of the murder of Mobile police Cpl. Julius "Sonny" Schulte, a 22-year veteran of the department. Madison's first conviction in 1985 was sent back to trial after a violation due to race-based jury selection. In 1990, Madison was convicted again, but the case was sent back to trial for improper testimony from an expert witness.
In his third trial, in 1994, Madison was tried and convicted. The jury recommended a life sentence but the judge overturned the jury's recommendation and sentenced him to death.
Now represented by Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit law firm, attorneys argue Madison should not be executed because the judge overrode the jury's recommendations. Attorneys also said Madison's health conditions have left him unable to understand his sentence.
Alabama currently has 185 people on death row. Madison's possible execution comes as Alabama and other states have been answering questions about the drugs used in lethal injections. Some drug companies have refused to provide states with the drugs after learning they were being used in executions. That has forced states to share their drug cocktails. Alabama uses three drugs in its cocktail, but has refused to divulge the source.
If he is executed, Madison will become the 58th person executed by the state since 1983 and the second this year after Christopher Brooks was executed on Jan. 21.