Today's Tampa Bay Times publishes the editorial, "State shouldn't execute severely mentally ill killer."
The battle over John Errol Ferguson's execution is not about who he is — a cold-blooded killer — but about who we are as Floridians. Ferguson is severely mentally ill and has been that way for more than 40 years. His execution is on hold while his mental state and the legal standards for killing someone who is mentally ill are being argued in federal court. The state and federal standards are in conflict, and the more reasonable federal standard should prevail and prevent from being executed a man who has raging hallucinations and thinks he's the Prince of God.
Ferguson's lawyer, Christopher Handman, is now in a legal race to save the mentally ill man from execution. Only a last-minute reprieve by the federal courts prevented his execution last month. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will review whether the proper constitutional standard for executing the mentally ill is being applied, with briefings scheduled this month.
Florida is embracing an interpretation of competency for execution so pinched that it would virtually extinguish limits on executing the severely mentally ill. The state says Ferguson is aware that he is being put to death and that he committed murder, and is therefore competent to be executed. A trial judge in Bradford County accepted this view, as did the Florida Supreme Court, which failed to block the execution.
But Handman persuasively argues that the standard of competency established by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2007 decision requires a rational understanding of the reason and effect of the execution.
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.