"Mental Health Experts Call on U.S. Supreme Court to Halt Florida Execution of John Ferguson on August 5," is the news release issued by NAMI, via PR Newswire. Here's the full text:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) filed an amicus brief today, along with three Florida mental health organizations, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution of John Ferguson, a man with a long history of severe mental illness, who is on Florida's death row and scheduled for execution on Monday, Aug. 5.
The amicus brief can be viewed at www.nami.org/ferguson.
The amicus brief explains that Ferguson's execution would violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because the Florida Supreme Court failed to apply the Supreme Court case, Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), that requires an individual to have a rational understanding of why he is being put to death and the effect of the death penalty.
"The death penalty is not constitutionally allowable as a punishment for John Ferguson because his delusions prevent him from understanding the nature of what is happening to him," said Ron Honberg, J.D., NAMI's national director of policy and legal affairs.
"The constitutional principle does not excuse his crimes, but it does point to life without parole as the appropriate sentence."
Ferguson has a documented 40-year history of profound mental illness, including multiple diagnoses by state doctors in state institutions. He suffers from psychotic hallucinations, including the belief that he is the "Prince of God," that he cannot be killed, and his body will not remain in a grave. He believes he will rise up after his execution and fight alongside Jesus to save America from a communist plot.
Along with NAMI, state organizations filing the amicus brief with are NAMI Florida, the Florida Psychiatric Society and the Florida Psychological Association. The amici members have participated in competency hearings and have a strong interest in having the courts apply the correct legal standards for mental competence.
The Florida Supreme Court applied an outdated, unconstitutional standard and held that it was sufficient to show that Ferguson had a mere factual awareness of his execution. But the U.S. Supreme Court in Panetti rejected that standard six years ago. U.S. Supreme Court precedent currently requires a showing that individuals have a rational understanding of why they are being put to death and the effect of their execution. Thus, the Florida ruling – which one federal appeals court called "patently incorrect" – is incompatible with the Eighth Amendment.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope.
"Executing People With Serious Mental Illness Offends Our Constitution and Our Humanity," is Ronald S. Honberg's essay at Huffington Post. He's the National Director for Policy and Legal Affairs for NAMI.
Mr. Ferguson was first diagnosed with mental illness nearly 50 years ago. He has spent the last 35 of those years on death row in Florida, following convictions for multiple murders. Mr. Ferguson has been in prison since his convictions, and if his death sentence is commuted, he will remain there for the rest of his life to keep the public safe.
But executing him, as the State plans on Monday, August 5, would violate the U.S. Constitution. In Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute a person who is insane and lacks a rational understanding of why he is being put to death and the effect of the death penalty.
In fact, states have been prohibited from executing people who are insane since the founding of our nation. It was a principle the colonists carried over from centuries of English common law. In 1680, the English jurist Sir Edward Coke explained: "By intendment of Law the execution of the offender is for example... but so it is not when a mad man is executed, but should be a miserable spectacle, both against Law, and of extream inhumanity and cruelty, and can be no example to others."
Some 300 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court observed: "Whether its aim be to protect the condemned from fear and pain without comfort of understanding, or to protect the dignity of society itself from the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance, the restriction [against executing the insane] finds enforcement in the Eighth Amendment."
The ACLU Blog of Rights posts, "Florida Will Kill Severely Mentally Ill Man Unless Supreme Court Intervenes," by Anna Arceneaux.
Unless the United States Supreme Court intervenes in the next few days, Florida will execute John Ferguson on August 5, despite a well-documented history of his psychosis spanning over 40 years.
Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Ferguson believes that he is the "Prince of God" and that after his execution he will be reincarnated in his same body, help Jesus fight the Antichrist, save America from a communist plot, and rule the earth. He thinks his conviction is the result of a communist conspiracy. He is certain that the state seeks to execute him not for his crimes but to prevent him from ascending to sit at God's right hand.
After a traumatic brain injury at age 21, Ferguson spent a decade in and out of mental hospitals. Doctors recommended that he receive long-term hospitalization and treatment. They warned that he should remain hospitalized because he was dangerously mentally ill. Nevertheless, he was ultimately discharged. Within two years, Ferguson was facing trial for multiple murders.
"US groups bid to halt execution of mentally ill man," is the AFP report, via Business Standard.
Medical experts filed a motion to the US Supreme Court today calling for the execution of a mentally ill mass-killer in Florida to be halted.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said in a statement it had requested that the execution of John Ferguson, sentenced to death for the murders of eight people in the 1970s, be stopped because it violated the constitution.
Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic who refers to himself as the "Prince of God", is set to be executed on August 5 at 2200 GMT at Raiford prison.
NAMI has joined with three other organizations -- NAMI Florida, the Florida Psychiatric Society and the Florida Psychological Association -- to call for Ferguson's death sentence to be stayed.
Earlier coverage of John Ferguson's case begins at the link.