"Death Row inmate John Ferguson spared in late night legal scramble," is the title of David Ovalle's Miami Herald report.
But just before 6 p.m., Florida Assistant Attorney General Stephen Ake got a phone call from one of Ferguson’s lawyers. Judge Hurley was on the phone for an emergency hearing.
Hurley this time denied Ferguson’s lawyers’ petition, but issued a “certificate of appealability” on whether the Florida Supreme Court made the wrong decision in upholding Judge Glant’s decision.
The “certificate of appealability” legal designation was crucial. Under its rules of procedure, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said it had no choice but to take up the mental health matter.
Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Atlanta court issued a stay on Ferguson’s execution.
The Attorney General’s Office, determined to see the execution through, quickly filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a strongly worded motion, Ake accused Ferguson’s lawyers of improper contact with Judge Hurley.
The latest appeal makes a “mockery” of the state’s looking for closure after “35 years of litigation,” Ake wrote.
Handman, Ferguson’s lawyer, shot back, in his reply, that the “mockery” was potentially putting a mentally ill man to death.
“His life hangs in the balance,” wrote Handman, who denied having any improper contact with the judge.
As the clock crept toward midnight Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to say the Atlanta court acted improperly. The stay remained in place.
Now, a new round of paperwork will be filed to the Atlanta appeals court in early November.
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.