Florida Set to Execute Mentally Ill Man (UPDATED)
Posted on Aug 5, 2013
UPDATE: Per MSNBC, Florida executed Ferguson at 6:17 p.m. ET Monday. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.
Barring a last-minute intervention, John Errol Ferguson is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Monday despite the fact that he suffers from a “severe” mental illness. The 65-year-old was convicted in 1978 of first-degree murder for a pair of brutal killing sprees that left eight people—including two teenagers—dead.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness and three Florida mental health organizations have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to intervene and stop the execution because Ferguson is a diagnosed schizophrenic.
Reuters via The Huffington Post:
The brief argues that Ferguson’s execution would violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring an individual to have a rational understanding of why he is being put to death and the effect of the death penalty.
“The death penalty is not constitutionally allowable as a punishment for John Ferguson because his delusions prevent him from understanding the nature of what is happening to him,” said Ron Honberg, NAMI’s national director of policy and legal affairs.
...State psychiatrists and other medical professionals have diagnosed Ferguson as a paranoid schizophrenic with a long history of mental illness, according to his defense team.
Defense attorney Christopher Handman has said Ferguson considers himself “the Prince of God” and does not understand the death penalty and why it had been imposed.
AP/Florida Department of Corrections
John Errol Ferguson.