Today, April 18, 2016, marks the 31st anniversary of the senseless slaying of Mobile Police Cpl. Julius Schulte, whose killer remains on death row and is set to be executed next month. As we will surely hear the cacophony of death penalty critics over the next few weeks, it is difficult to imagine a more worthy candidate of the state’s ultimate sanction than Vernon Madison. Madison’s long battle with the criminal justice system began when he shot a person at age 13. By 17, he stabbed another. He committed an armed robbery as well. According to former Mobile County District Attorney Chris Galanos, Madison also “attacked an inmate and assaulted a security guard adding 10 more years to his sentence.” He only served 12 years of the 35 year sentence (in Mississippi’s Parchman Prison) and was out on parole when he executed Officer Schulte.(Renee Busby, Lack of Prison Space Deplored by Galanos, Mobile Register, May 22, 1985, at 4-B).
Little has been said of the victim, other than he was a Mobile Police Officer. You will probably hear much of the defendant’s mental history, or how the State improperly struck African-Americans from the jury, or how the State of Alabama shouldn’t be in the business of killing folks, or that the manner of execution is cruel and unusual, or perhaps Alabama’s steadfast adherence to judicial override (the authority of a judge to override the jury recommendation of life without the possibility of parole in favor death). What you probably won’t hear a lot about is Cpl. Schulte. He was described by friends and colleagues as “the peacemaker” for his ability to bring people together to work their differences out instead of relying on the court system. Schulte was a 22 year veteran of the police force. For six days, he lay in the hospital fighting for his life, until succumbing to his injuries.
The facts were largely undisputed. Judge McMillan’s rendition of facts in Madison v. State,718 So.2d 90,94 (Ala. Crim. App. 1997) evidences a cold blooded execution style murder and another near murder:
“[On]April 18, 1985, the residents of 1058 Etta Avenue were Cheryl Green, the woman with whom the Defendant had lived until days prior to the murder, and Kimberly Hughes, her 11-year-old daughter. That night, Cpl. Julius Schulte, a police officer of the City of Mobile, was dispatched and went to 1058 Etta Avenue in Mobile to investigate a missing child complaint. When Cpl. Schulte arrived, he learned that the child, Kimberly Hughes, had come home after her mother called the police but before he arrived. He also found himself in the midst of a domestic dispute between Cheryl Green and the Defendant, for April 18, 1985, was also the night that Green had thrown the Defendant’s personal effects out of the house they previously shared. The Defendant had come and gone from 1058 Eitta Avenue before Cpl. Schulte arrived, ostensibly to look for Kimberly. He came back with another woman, Mary McCord, after Cpl. Schulte was on the scene, but he left her and his .32 caliber pistol at the corner before proceeding to the house located in the middle of the block. Once inside the 1058 Etta Avenue residence, the Defendant argued with Green, accusing her of calling the police on him. Even though he now knew the child was secure, Cpl. Schulte remained on the scene and called for a backup officer, because he had been asked to stay until Green and her child were safely away from the Defendant.
The Defendant and Green came out of the house, and both talked to Cpl. Schulte, who never exited his patrol car. After that brief conversation, the defendant appeared to leave. He did not go far; rather, he simply went to the corner where Mary McCord was holding his .32 caliber pistol. He took the gun from her and left her.
Now armed, the Defendant went back to where Green was still talking with Cpl. Schulte, who still sat innocently and unsuspectingly in his unmarked police car. The Defendant, however, returned a different way. He went over one block, and he sneaked up behind the houses on Etta Avenue. He emerged from the shadows, approached Cpl. Schulte from the left rear, and coldly and methodically fired two shots at near point blank range into the back of Cpl. Schulte’s head. He then turned the weapon on Cheryl Green, shooting her in the back. After killing his helpless victim, Cpl. Schulte, and shooting Cheryl Green, the Defendant fled the scene.”
Testimony in Madison’s third trial revealed that Madison later told an acquaintance, “I just killed a cop.” Ex Parte Madison,718 So.2d 104.105 (Ala.1998)
Madison was tried for capital murder three times (1985, 1990, and 1994). Twice his convictions were set aside by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. His 1985 and 1990 juries returned guilty verdicts with recommendations of death. His 1994 jury returned a guilty verdict with a 8-4 recommendation of LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE. However, the trial judge overrode the jury recommendation and sentenced Madison to death. If you want the detailed procedural history, below is Judge Kristi Dubose’s (US District Judge Southern District of Alabama) recitation in Madison v. Allen, CIVIL ACTION NO.: 09-00009-KD-B (S.D. Ala. Apr 25, 2013) :
“In May 1985, Petitioner Vernon Madison (“Madison’), who is black, was indicted by a Mobile County grand jury for capital murder, for killing Julius Schulte, a white police officer of the Mobile, Alabama Police Department. On September 12, 1985, a jury found Madison guilty of capital murder; he was convicted and sentenced to death. Madison appealed and the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction and remanded for a new trial because the dictates of Batson had been violated. Madison v. State, 545 So.2d 94 (Ala. Crim. App. 1987) (Madison I) (finding that the prosecutor’s explanations for the use of peremptory strikes to remove all seven (7) black prospective jurors from venire were “superficial, show[ed] a lack of proper examination” and did not overcome the defendant’s prima facie case). Following his second trial in September of 1990, Madison was again convicted and sentenced to death. Madison appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction and remanded for a new trial, on the grounds that the state had elicited expert testimony based partly on facts not in evidence. Madison v. State, 620 So.2d 62 (Ala. Crim. App. 1992) (Madison II) (reversing because the prosecution’s psychologist Dr. McClaren was permitted, during the guilt phase of trial, to state his opinion of the appellant’s mental condition at the time the offense was committed, despite the fact that McClaren’s opinion was based in part on information not in evidence).”
At his third trial in April 1994, the jury found Madison guilty of capital murder and recommended during the penalty phase, by an 8-4 vote, that he be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. However, at the July 7, 1994 sentencing hearing, the trial judge overrode the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Madison to death. Madison appealed and on January 17, 1997, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and death sentence, Madison v. State, 718 So.2d 90 (Ala. Crim. App. 1997) (Madison III), and on June 19, 1998, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, Ex parte Madison, 718 So.2d 104 (Ala. 1998). Madison then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was denied on November 16, 1998.Madison v. Alabama, 525 U.S. 1006 (1998). On June 18, 1999, Madison initiated a collateral attack on his conviction and death sentence by filing a Rule 32 petition for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Madison v. State, 999 So.2d 561 (Ala. Crim. App. 2006). On December 1, 2006, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Madison’s request for a rehearing and finally, Madison sought certiorari review in the Alabama Supreme Court, which was denied on August 15, 2008.
After exhausting his appeals in the state court system, Madison turned to federal court. He filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District of Alabama alleging prosecutors improperly struck prospective African-American jurors in violation of the United States Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky,476 U.S. 79 (1986). Judge Kristi Dubose denied Madison’s Batson claims [technically it was a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254], and the conviction and death sentence remained in place. Madison appealed this ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed the District Court’s denial of Mr. Madison’s Batson claim. Madison v. Comm’r, Ala. Dep’t of Corr., 677 F.3d 1333, 1339 (11th Cir. 2012) (per curiam). Judge Dubose then held the evidentiary hearing and ultimately denied Matson’s petition. Madison then appealed Judge Dubose’s order again to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted oral arguments (a rarity). Ultimately, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Judge Dubose’s order denying Madison’s Batson appeal. Madison is now set to be executed on May 12, 2016, some 31 years after the murder.
May execution date set for convicted Mobile cop killer.
AL.COM has been covering the case of late in conjunction with The Marshall Project. They have a Countdown Page in case you are interested. The Marshall Project website says:
“Vernon Madison, 65, was convicted and sentenced to death in Mobile County, Ala. 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. Madison had three trials, the last one in 1994. State appellate courts twice sent the case back to Mobile County, once for a violation based on race-based jury selection and once based on improper testimony for an expert witness for the prosecution. He is one of Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmates. Madison’s attorney in February filed a motion seeking to stop his execution, saying Madison suffers ‘from significant cognitive decline, acute mental health disorders, and severe medical problems that render him incompetent to be executed. ‘ A Mobile County judge has scheduled a competency hearing for Madison.”
This hearing was held on Friday April 15, 2016 and the court gave both sides a week to file briefs with the court before issuing his judgment.
Schulte’s obituary is below:
Schulte’s senseless murder stunned the community. Hundreds attended his funeral. It was an incredible tragedy.
Mobile Press Register, April 27, 1985
Shortly after his death, Cpl. Schulte was honored with a plaque at Strickland Youth Center. He was remembered as a cop who loved children, who died in the performance of attempting to help another child. He was tough as nails they said, but he couldn’t bear to see a child cry.
Mobile Register, Metropolitan Section, June 26, 1985
April 24 is the 31st anniversary of his Cpl. Schulte’s death. The Officer Down Memorial Page has this picture of Cpl. Schulte followed by multiple posts of family members, fellow officers, and friends. Below are just a few.
Cpl. Julius Schulte
I welcome those who may have known Cpl. Schulte to post comments in remembrance of him.
Matt Green is a former assistant district attorney who prosecuted major felonies and violent crimes in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office. He served as a municipal court judge in the City of Mobile and the City of Saraland. He is President of the Mobile Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies.