"John Errol Ferguson Case: Daniel T.K. Hurley, U.S. District Judge, Grants Stay Of Execution," is the AP report, via Huffington Post. It's also available from the Washington Post.
A federal judge on Saturday granted a stay of execution for a convicted mass killer in Florida who is mentally ill and was scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley granted the motion for a stay in the case of John Errol Ferguson, who was to be executed Tuesday after 34 years on Florida’s death row.
“The issues raised merit full, reflective consideration,” the court said.
The court will hear three hours of arguments on Ferguson’s habeas corpus petition on Friday, according to his attorneys.
They contend that the Florida Supreme Court, in determining that Ferguson could be executed, relied on an outdated definition of competency that conflicts with a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Ferguson’s attorneys maintain he is insane and that the Constitution prohibits the state from executing him.
"Court halts execution of John Ferguson," is the Miami Herald report.
A federal court on Saturday put the execution of John Ferguson on hold and scheduled arguments for Friday on whether he is, as he contends, insane.
Ferguson, convicted of killing eight people in a 1970s murder spree, had been scheduled to be put to death Tuesday.
Saturday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in Miami came just three days after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that Ferguson was sane and eligible to be executed.
Ferguson’s lawyers said that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and labors under the delusion that he is the “Prince of God.”
Ferguson's attorney Chris Handman issued this statement on the ruling:
“We are pleased that Judge Hurley has stayed the execution of Mr. Ferguson and has concluded that the important constitutional issues raised by Mr. Ferguson’s habeas petition merit full consideration. In order for the state to execute him, Mr. Ferguson must have a rational understanding of the reason for, and effect of, his execution. A man who thinks he is the immortal Prince of God and who believes he is incarcerated because of a Communist plot quite clearly has no rational understanding of the effect of his looming execution and the reason for it.”
Ferguson’s filing in the Miami federal court followed the Florida Supreme Court’s determination that Ferguson is competent and may be executed. In his habeas petition, Mr. Ferguson seeks to prevent his execution on the grounds that he is currently insane and that the Eighth Amendment therefore prohibits the State from killing him."
Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano writes, "Insanity infects both the mass killer and the justice system."
What price are you willing to pay for justice?
Would you sacrifice compassion? A small slice of morality?
Would you defy a landmark provision within the U.S. Constitution? If you're unsure, consider this:
The state of Florida was scheduled to execute John Errol Ferguson on Tuesday but a federal judge granted an emergency stay on Saturday.
Ferguson, 64, was convicted of eight murders in South Florida in 1978, admitted to two more while in jail, and evidence suggests he also is responsible for the death of a St. Petersburg couple in 1977.
So, no, empathy does not run deep for the man.
The issue, however, is whether Ferguson is sane enough to be put to death.
Earlier coverage of John Ferguson's case begins at the link.
Related posts are in the competency and mental illness category indexes. I added the compentency 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.