Stay of execution granted to mentally-ill Florida man


TALLAHASSEE – The US supreme court on Tuesday upheld a last-minute federal appeals court ruling granting a stay of execution to a mentally ill Florida man convicted of killing eight people, during the 1970s.

John Errol Ferguson (64) had been scheduled to be executed around 6pm local time but his lawyers filed a flurry of appeals late on Tuesday arguing he should not be put to death because he was mentally insane. The ruling establishes a schedule for additional briefs to be filed in Ferguson’s case by November 6th.

Ferguson, who has been on death row for 34 years, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1978 for a pair of killing sprees. In July 1977, he fatally shot six people execution-style during a drug-related home robbery in a northern Miami suburb. Six months later, he killed two teenagers after they left a church meeting. State psychiatrists and other medical professionals have diagnosed Ferguson as a paranoid schizophrenic with a long history of mental illness, according to his defence team.

Defence attorney Christopher Handman has said Ferguson considers himself the “Prince of God” and does not understand the death penalty and why it had been imposed. “It is impossible to fathom that the state can constitutionally put to death a man who ... believes he has a destiny of being the right hand of God and returning to purify earth after the state tries to kill him,” Mr Handman had said. – (Reuters)