Alabama execution delayed as court ponders reprieve

Jan 25 (Reuters) - The execution of an Alabama man convicted of murdering a police officer in 1985 was temporarily halted on Thursday after attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to spare the man's life because he had several strokes that left him unable to remember the crime.

Vernon Madison, 67, has spent more than three decades on death row for killing Mobile police officer Julius Schulte. His death by lethal injection would be the second in the United States this year if carried out.

The execution was planned for 6 p.m. CST at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. But less than an hour before then, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt to consider the last-minute appeal.

21 PHOTOS
Notable death penalty executions and people on death row
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Notable death penalty executions and people on death row
Seated on his bunk in the death cell of Iberia Parish Courthouse, convinced that 'The Lord is Still with Me,' is Willie Francis, a 17-year-old who won a million-to-one chance of a reprieve from death when the electric chair failed to kill him, or even hurt him, at his scheduled execution on May 3. Sentenced to die for the murder of a St. Martinville druggist a year ago, Francis was strapped in the chair. The current was applied. The doomed man squirmed and jumped. But when the current was shut off, he was unharmed. 'It tickled a little,' he said. The state will try again to carry out the execution on Thursday May 9th.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

This is John Wayne Gacy's police arrest photo from Dec. 21, 1978. Following intensive research, investigation and surveillance, Gacy was arrested by the Des Plaines (Ill.) Police Department on Thursday, Dec. 21, 1978. After being charged with and serving time for 33 murders, Gacy was executed in 1994 by lethal injection. Today, Monday, Nov. 23, 1998, technicians began preliminary work on a possible excavation at an apartment building on Chicago's Northwest Side in search of as many as four more possible victims of the mass murderer. The apartment building at one time, was the home of Gacy's mother, and Gacy had done some construction work there. The information regarding the location was recently released from a retired Chicago police officer who said he had seen Gacy carrying a shovel near the area at about 3 a.m. one day in 1975. The former officer reportedly thought little of the Gacy sighting until three years later, when Gacy was charged with 33 murders. The apartment building is about four miles away from Gacy's house.

(Des Plaines Police Department, Tim Boyle)

A portrait of mass murderer Ted Bundy, responsible for a string of murders in Washington state, Utah, and Florida in the 1970s. He was executed in in Florida on January 24, 1989. His actual victim count remains unknown.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Aileen Wuornos is shown in this undated photograph from the Florida Department of Corrections. Wournos was executed by lethal injection October 9, 2002 in Florida for murdering six men when she was a prostitute.

(Photo by Florida DOC/Getty Images)

Admitted mass-slayer Charles Starkweather is shown entering court for the second day of his trial for murder. Starkweather admitted killing 11 people and was executed in Nebraska on June 25, 1959. 

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is shown being escorted from the Noble County Courthouse as he is transported to Oklahoma City for arraignment in this April 22, 1995 file photo. On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed after being sentenced to death for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, a crime that took 168 lives and shook a complacent America to the core.

(Jim Bourg / Reuters)

Gary Gilmore, responsible for the shooting deaths of two men, was executed in Utah on January 17, 1977.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Media witnesses to the firing squad execution of John Albert Taylor examine the chair in which Taylor sat as he was shot to death at 12:03 a.m. Mountain time January 26 at the Unita State Penitentiary in Utah. The execution of Taylor was the first by firing squad in the United States since the 1977 execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah.

(POOL New / Reuters)

Stanley 'Tookie Williams' was responsible for several murders and other crimes and was executed in California on December 13, 2005. Williams helped found the Crips gang, but was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-gang efforts. He authored such books as 'Life in Prison,' encouraging kids to stay out of gangs, and his memoir 'Blue Rage, Black Redemption'.'

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Teresa Lewis, convicted of murdering her husband and stepson, was executed in Virginia on September 23, 2010. She was the first woman executed in the state in nearly 100 years.

(REUTERS/Virginia Department of Corrections/Handout)

William Bonin (left), a 33-year-old truck driver and registered sex offender, was accused of the 'torture' murders of at least 13 and possibly 21 young males, suspected victims of the so called 'Freeway Killer. He was executed in California on February 23, 1996.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also said Vernon Butts (right) was an accomplice in at least six of the 21 murders.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, responsible for Boston Marathon bombing, was sentenced to death on May 15, 2015.

(Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in a mass shooting at the U.S. Army post in Fort Hood, Texas, was sentenced to death on August 28, 2013.

(Ho New / Reuters)

Joseph E. Duncan III, a convicted murderer and sex offender, was sentenced to death on August 27, 2008.

 (Photo provided by Kootenai County Sheriff's Department via Getty Images)

Coy Wesbrook was executed in 2016. He fatally shot five people in 1997 with a hunting rifle in a killing spree launched when he found his ex-wife having sex with other men.

(REUTERS/Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout via Reuters)

Dylann Roof, the man convicted of murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston was condemned to death by a federal jury on January 10, 2017.

(REUTERS/Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Handout)

Death row inmate Ricky Gray is shown in this undated photo released in Washington, DC, U.S. in 2016. Virginia Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Christopher Wilkins, 48, Texas death row inmate convicted of killing two people in a revenge plot after one had tricked him in a $20 drug deal, is shown in this undated photo in Huntsville, Texas, U.S.. Courtesy Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Deathrow inmate Mark Asay is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters August 14, 2017.

He was executed by a lethal injection that included a drug never before used in a U.S. execution, state officials said.

(Florida Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS)

Vernon Madison, one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates, pictured in this handout photo, to is set to be executed at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, United States on May 12, 2016 even as the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a review into whether the state's current sentencing scheme is constitutional. 

(Alabama Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS)

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In the appeal this week, Madison's lawyers said he should not 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 seeking a stay.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it is still planning to execute Madison later on Thursday if the court denies the appeal.

In 2016, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Madison was no longer legally eligible to be executed because of his memory loss.

But the U.S. 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.”

Madison’s attorneys have asked justices to reconsider the case. They said in their petition that the state failed to disclose that a court-appointed psychologist who evaluated Madison was addicted to narcotics and had been suspended from his practice for forging prescriptions, making his findings invalid.

Lawyers for Alabama argue that Madison's own expert witness has testified that he understands what he was tried for and “the meaning of a death sentence.”

According to court records, Madison killed Schulte during a domestic dispute that Madison was having with his girlfriend.

Madison appeared to leave his girlfriend's home after retrieving his belongings, but then crept up behind Schulte as he sat in his patrol car and shot him twice in the back of the head with a .32-caliber pistol.

Madison, who is black, was sentenced to death in 1994 in his third trial after his first two convictions were thrown out on appeal for racial discrimination in jury selection and other prosecutorial misconduct.

21 PHOTOS
States without the death penalty
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States without the death penalty

Alaska (since 1957)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Connecticut (since 2012)

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Delaware (2016)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Hawaii (since 1957)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Illinois (since 2011)

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

Iowa (since 1965)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Maine (since 1887)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Maryland (since 2013)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Massachusetts (since 1984)

(Photo via Corbis)

Michigan (since 1846)

(Photo via Getty Images)

Minnesota (since 1911)

(Photo by Dan Anderson via Getty Images)

New Jersey (since 2007)

(Photo by Denis Tangney Jr via Getty Images)

New Mexico (since 2009)

(Photo by John Lund via Getty Images)

New York (since 2007)

(Photo by Matteo Colombo via Getty Images)

North Dakota (since 1973)

(Photo by Walter Bibikow via Getty Images)

Rhode Island (since 1984)

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Vermont (since 1964)

(Photo via Getty Images)

West Virginia (1965)

(Photo by Stan Rohrer via Getty Images)

Wisconsin (since 1853)

(Photo by Timothy Hughes)

Washington, D.C. (since 1981)

(Photo via Getty Images)

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(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler)

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