A federal court of appeals this morning stayed tonight's scheduled execution of Mobile cop killer Vernon Madison.
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay of the execution that was set to take place at Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore.
The Alabama Attorney General's Office, however, is appealing the ruling, Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative which represents Madison, said just after noon today.
According to the Attorney General's motion to overturn the 11th Circuit's stay, the AG noted that the appeals court had ruled less than eight hours before the scheduled execution. "In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit read into the State court order legal conclusions that do not exist ....and based on an issue that is clearly and plainly foreclosed under this Court's precedent," according to the AG's motion.
The Attorney General also notes that it could execute Madison tonight past the scheduled 6 p.m. event time.
"Witnesses, Alabama Department of Corrections personnel, and other Executive Department personnel continue to prepare for Madison's execution in the event this motion is granted," according to the A.G.'s motion. "Madison's death warrant does not expire until midnight, May 12, 2016. It is requested, therefore, that this Court expedite review of this matter, but in any event notify the Commissioner if this motion is denied (or, not to be granted) prior to midnight, May 12, 2016."
On Thursday afternoon, EJI attorneys filed a response saying the attorney general's motion should be denied because Madison's competency claim has not been reviewed on appeal in either state or federal court.
The Eleventh Circuit's ruling was warranted and an appeal is appropriate, they say, to allow adequate review of complex questions involving Madison's medcial issues and competency.
"The state court here applied a standard more restrictive than what this Court's precedent requires and consequently removed the key evidence of Mr. Madison's incompetency from its consideration," the attorneys wrote. "Therefore, the state court's decision was contrary to and an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law and an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the competency proceeding.
An Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman said they were still going through with plans for the execution pending a final order. A spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General's Office declined comment regarding the appeal.
The Attorney General's Appeal says the 11th Circuit stay must be vacated because that stay reads into the Alabama judge's decision a legal theory that was not adopted, or relied upon, by that judge in making a ruling that rejected Madison's claims that he is incompetent to be executed.
"For the Eleventh Circuit to read into an Alabama trial court's order a legal theory that was not espoused by that Court is an affront to Alabama's judicial branch and a violation of the requirements of the AEDPA (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) ... To then add insult to that injury by granting a stay of execution and a certificate of appealability to review a question that is easily answered by resort to the clear holdings of Ford and Panetti (previous cases) is an absolute abuse of discretion," the Attorney General's Office states. "Respondent (Attorney General), therefore, prays this Honorable Court will vacate the stay of execution entered this morning by the Eleventh Circuit."
Madison had claimed he was mentally incompetent to be executed. His attorneys, from the Montgomery-based nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, have been seeking a stay from state and federal courts since the execution date was set in March.
"It is unconstitutional to execute an individual who is mentally incompetent," an EJI statement issued Thursday reads. "Today, the Eleventh Circuit ordered a stay of Mr. Madison's execution so that it could properly consider the claim that his execution would violate the constitution."
On Wednesday, EJI attorneys filed the petition for a stay and a request for oral argument before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The appellate court, in granting that request, noted that Madison's claim could not be raised until the execution was imminent, and that only an Alabama trial court and the federal district court have reviewed the claim.
In a response to Madison's filing, state attorneys argued that the circuit judge considered all testimony and evidence in reaching the conclusion that Madison possesses a rational understanding of the offense and the execution.
They say Madison alleges that the circuit judge failed to extend cases of precedent to include stroke-related impairments to mental capacity, rather than psychosis or delusions.
According to the appellate court's order filed Thursday morning, the court offers two reasons for granting the stay. First, the state court's finding that Madison is competent to be executed "is contrary to or involves an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law." Secondly, the state judge's decision was an unreasonable conclusion based on the evidence presented at the competency hearing.
The appellate court has now directed the attorneys to file briefs addressing those issues. Madison's attorneys must file by May 27, and the attorney general's office must respond by June 10. Madison's attorneys then will have until June 17 to file a reply.
Oral argument will take place in Atlanta on June 23, with each side allowed 30 minutes.
Madison was convicted in September 1985 and sentenced to death in Mobile County in the April 18, 1985, slaying of police Officer Julius Schulte, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Madison was on parole at the time.
Source: al.com, Kelstey Stein, May 12, 2016