(CN) – The 11th Circuit blocked the execution of an Alabama death row inmate ruling he is incompetent.
Vernon Madison was one of Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmates. The 66 year old was convicted in the April 1985 killing of Mobile, Alabama police officer Julius Schulte, and he was twice sentenced to die, in 1985 and in 1990.
Both times the sentence was overturned by an appeals court, first for alleged race-based jury selection, and the second time due to improper testimony by an expert witness of the prosecution.
He was again sentenced to die, but later suffered two strokes that dramatically affected his mental condition. That led to a 2016 state competency hearing, during which an expert witness for the defense testified that Madison suffered from dementia and that as a result of his mental decline, he could not understand why he was being executed.
Goff testified that an MRI scan showed portions of Madison’s brain had died and that his Working Memory Index score indicated “a substantial deficit.”
Goff diagnosed Madison with Vascular Dementia and found that he suffers from retrograde amnesia.
Goff also stated that while could recall facts told to him by his attorneys, he was unable to recall past events. Madison told Goff he didn’t believe he killed anyone. Goff told the court that Madison doesn’t understand the proceedings.
The trial court was unmoved, but last week the 11th Circuit held none of the other evidence presented during the competency hearing sufficiently contradicted the testimony of the expert, Dr. John Goff.
As a result, it said, it had no choice by to “conclude that Mr. Madison is incompetent to be executed.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that competency hinges on the inmate’s ability to rationally understand that he is being executed as punishment for the crime.