ATMORE, Ala. — The son of a slain Alabama police officer said Friday that his father should not be forgotten as the U.S. Supreme Court and media focus on legal wrangling over whether his father’s killer is competent to be executed.
Justices on Thursday halted the lethal injection of Alabama inmate Vernon Madison, 67, as they decide whether to review claims that executing him would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Attorneys for Madison said stroke-induced dementia has rendered him unable to remember shooting Mobile police officer Julius Schulte in the head in 1985.
Michael Schulte, the slain officer’s son, said Friday that last-minute execution stays — the second Madison has received within two years — have been difficult for his family and mean “this tragedy isn’t finished.”
“It’s like everywhere you turn, there it is. There’s this guy’s face. It brings everything back to mind that this guy is still alive and my dad, who never hurt anybody, isn’t here anymore,” Michael Schulte said.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Friday that he was disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to delay Madison’s execution, saying “justice is again delayed” for the officer’s family.
Madison’s attorneys said the state is trying to execute a man who “no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed.” They said Madison has suffered several strokes and is frequently confused.
“We are thrilled that the court stopped this execution tonight. Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel,” attorney Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative, said Thursday evening after the stay was granted.
The Supreme Court has ruled that condemned inmates must have a “rational understanding” that they are about to be executed and why.
Courts have been divided over Madison’s case.
A state court ruled in 2016 that Madison was competent.
In 2016, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted Madison’s execution seven hours before he was scheduled for a lethal injection and the panel ruled him incompetent. “According to his perception of reality he never committed murder,” the judges ruled.
The U.S. Supreme Court later opened the way for the execution to proceed. The court, in an unsigned 2017 opinion, said that testimony showed Madison “recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed. Justices noted then that their review was limited unless Madison showed the court acted unreasonably.
In 1985, Schulte had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison’s then-girlfriend. Prosecutors have said Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car filling out paperwork.
Michael Schulte said his father loved police work and had a knack for talking to people and diffusing volatile situations. He said his mother received hundreds of letters after her husband’s death, including many from people who said Schulte helped them turn their lives around.