Alabama man who forgot killing a police officer in 1980s dies on death row

Madison served more than three decades on Alabama death row for killing police officer Cpl. Julius Schulte in 1985.

A man suffering from dementia died in Alabama ahead of his hearing in which attorneys argued that the man whose memories of killing were erased should be held off from death row.

Vernon Madison, 69, died at the Holman Correctional Facility on Saturday said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose. An autopsy is pending but officials do not suspect foul play at the facility that houses death row inmates in Atmore, according to the Associated Press.

Murder of a police officer in 1985

Madison served more than three decades on the Alabama death row for killing police officer Cpl. Julius Schulte in 1985. Court records reveal that Schulte responded to a report about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend and was later shot dead in the back of the head by Madison as he sat in his police car filling out paperwork.

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His execution by lethal injection was first halted in 2016 after he suffered strokes, and his attorneys argued that he was heavily impaired. "He developed vascular dementia as a result, which left him legally blind, incontinent, unable to walk without a walker, with slurred speech, and with no memory of the crime or the circumstances that brought him to death row," the group, Equal Justice Initiative, which has fought for Madison's case before the Supreme Court, said.

'Cruel and unusual punishment'

His execution was halted on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment since Madison was unable to recall his crime. The court ruling in 2016 was overruled by the Supreme Court. In 2018, the high court agreed to hear Madison's case and his execution was rescheduled for the second time.

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Later, the Supreme Court issued a 5-3 ruling in February 2019 in which Madison's case was sent back to an Alabama state court in order to determine whether Madison could understand why he was to be executed.

In a recent statement, the Equal Justice Initiative said that Madison "brought national attention to the plight of aging prisoners with dementia".