In 4-4 split, Supreme Court refuses to overturn execution stay based on inmate's dementia
A split U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to overturn a stay of execution for an Alabama inmate whose lawyers claim vascular dementia from strokes makes him incompetent for execution.
Four justices would have overturned the stay (PDF) granted to 65-year-old inmate Vernon Madison, report the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Al.com. The four justices who would have vacated the stay were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Madison was convicted of killing a Mobile, Alabama, police officer in April 1985. Madison is represented by the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by lawyer Bryan Stevenson. According to EJI, brain damage from strokes left Madison with an inability to understand the the proceedings against him, slurred speech, blindness and an inability to walk on his own.
Stevenson said in a statement that jurors had recommended a life sentence, but a judge overrode the verdict and sentenced Madison to death. The judge has overridden six jury verdicts of life without parole, more than any other judge in Alabama, according to EJI. The group is raising the override issue in a separate habeas petition (PDF) filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay (PDF) based on the competency issue seven hours before Madison’s scheduled execution on Thursday, according to the AP story.