Supreme Court rules Alabama death row inmate can be executed

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( — The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Alabama can execute a death row inmate who claimed to be mentally incompetent and was granted a stay in 2016.

Vernon Madison, 66, is one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates. He was convicted in the April 1985 slaying of Mobile police officer Cpl. Julius Schulte.

In May 2016, Madison was set to die by lethal injection, but hours [before] the scheduled execution the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding a lower court's stay.

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision, meaning Madison is competent and can be executed. "More than 30 years ago, Vernon Madison crept up behind police officer Julius Schulte and shot him twice in the head at close range," the ruling states.

Madison faced a state competency hearing before his execution, where he claimed several strokes he recently suffered affected his mental status and made him unable to remember his crimes or remember that he was on death row. The trial court denied Madison's petition, and said the execution could proceed.

But then the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Madison was incompetent and he could not be executed.

"Testimony from each of the psychologists who examined Madison supported the court's finding that Madison understands both that he was tried and imprisoned for murder and that Alabama will put him to death as punishment for that crime," Monday's ruling states.

The nation's highest court has never ruled in about executions involving someone who doesn't remember his crime.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissenting opinion about the issues surrounding executions. "...we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age. And we may well have to consider the ways in which lengthy periods of imprisonment between death sentence and execution can deepen the cruelty of the death penalty while at the same time undermining its penological rationale."

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