Our great American system of justice is demeaned when we execute the profoundly mentally ill. Nonetheless, a Florida trial court has ruled that the scheduled Thursday execution of John Ferguson should proceed, despite its conclusion that Ferguson’s mental illness is so profound that he hears and sees things that aren’t real and suffers from serious delusions.
This condition has persisted for more than three decades and has included years of involuntary confinement in mental hospitals and treatment with antipsychotic medications.
The American Bar Association has long been concerned about the special vulnerability of the mentally ill in our criminal justice system. These concerns follow hundreds of years of common law tradition that has consistently held that offenders with severe mental illness must be treated differently from other offenders.
"Serial killer’s execution won’t happen until after stay expires," is David Ovalle's Miami Herald report.
John Errol Ferguson, on Death Row for eight murders in Miami-Dade in the 1970s, won’t be executed Thursday.
The Florida Department of Corrections initially said last week that Ferguson, 64, would be killed by lethal injection Thursday at 6 p.m., after a two-day delay mandated by the state’s high court pending last-minute appeals.
But on Monday, the corrections department clarified that an execution date won’t be set until after the Florida Supreme Court’s stay on the execution expires Thursday afternoon.
Earlier coverage of John Ferguson's case begins at the link.
Related posts are in the competency and mental illness category indexes. I added thecompentency category index in April. Earlier posts dealing with competency to be executed are available under the Scott Panetti index.
The Supreme Court established standards to assess whether severely mentally ill inmates are competent to be executed in the 1986 case, Ford v. Wainwright; more via Oyez. Coverage of Scott Panetti's case begins at the link. More on the U.S. Supreme Court 2007 ruling in Panetti v. Quarterman is via Oyez.