"Jesus Christ, The Death Penalty, And Florida," is Andrew Cohen's post at Esquire's politics blog. Here's the beginning:
Last month it was Georgia's unseemly attempt to hide from public view the details of its efforts to execute Warren Lee Hill, a mentally retarded man who is supposed to be exempt from the death penalty by virtue of a 2002 United States Supreme Court decision styled Atkins v. Virgina. This month, it is Florida's brazen attempt to execute John Ferguson, a patently delusional schizophrenic who says he is the “Prince of God" and who is therefore supposed to be exempt from capital punishment by virtue of a 2007 Supreme Court decision styled Panetti v. Quarterman. In the last 11 years, the Supreme Court has said that the Eighth Amendment forbids a state from executing the mentally retarded or the insane. And yet here these two men sit, one (Ferguson) scheduled to be executed on Monday; the other (Hill) waiting to learn his fate.
In each case, state officials have undermined the spirit, if not the letter, of the Supreme Court's commands.
US News & World Report posts, "Florida to Execute Severely Mentally Ill Man Unless Supreme Court Intervenes," by Elizabeth Flock.
Florida plans to execute John Ferguson on Monday even if he doesn't understand why.
Ferguson, 65, was convicted of killing eight people in South Florida in two separate incidents in the 1970s. He is also severely mentally ill, having been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by multiple court-appointed doctors during his 35 years on death row. He describes himself as "the prince of God" and believes his coming execution is the result of a communist conspiracy.
And yet Ferguson was slated to die by lethal injection in October, but was issued a last-minute stay after his lawyers argued it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally ill man.
"Florida Gov. Rick Scott Poised to Execute the 'Prince of God',” is by Stephanie Mencimer for Mother Jones.
Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott is making a big push to expedite the executions of many prisoners who are currently on the state's death row. He's signed five death warrants this year (three within a four-week span this spring), a pace rarely seen since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. One of the condemned is John Ferguson, who's set to be executed on Monday. Ferguson is a notorious killer who has been on death row for more than 30 years. He's also a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he's the "Prince of God."
Scott's decision to move forward with Ferguson's execution has spurred his lawyers, supported by the National Association for Mental Illness and the American Bar Association, to petition the US Supreme Court to intervene. Because he's mentally ill, they argue, his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court has until Monday to stay the execution or allow it to proceed.
The justices in recent years have ruled that states can no longer execute juveniles and the mentally retarded. And in 2007, the court issued an opinion in Panetti v. Quarterman attempting to make it more difficult to execute the mentally ill. The court said states can no longer execute mentally ill people just because they recognize that they're going to be executed and know the reason for it. They must have a "rational understanding" of the impending execution and its cause. Otherwise, the main justification for capital punishment—retribution—can't be satisfied.
Earlier coverage of John Ferguson's case begins at the link.
Related posts are in the competency and mental illness category indexes. 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.