The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the execution of an Alabama man who killed a police officer in 1985, on the grounds that the inmate reportedly suffers from dementia.
Vernon Madison, now 67 years old, has been held in solitary confinement for the past 30 years. He was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
However, Madison’s lawyers have said that he has suffered from a number of strokes, and is now legally blind. They have also claimed that his memory is impaired, potentially due to the onset of dementia, and he cannot walk without the aid of a walker.
“His mind and body are failing,” Madison’s legal team said, according to the BBC.
The U.S. Supreme Court, which requires that inmates must have a “rational understanding” of death row and their execution, has allowed Madison’s death to be delayed until his condition could be further researched.
Madison was sentenced to death row for shooting and killing police officer Julius Schulte, who was responding to a domestic dispute involving Madison and his girlfriend in the city of Mobile, Alabama in 1985.
Madison’s death was to be the second scheduled prisoner execution in the U.S. this year. In 2017, there were 23 U.S. executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that all non-lethal means should be explored before the taking of any human life, no matter the crime of the perpetrator, if safety of society can be ensured.
“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person,” says the Catechism.
Pope Francis has spoken out numerous times on capital punishment, saying it is “an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person,” calling the practice “unacceptable, however grave the crime.”