Court grants emergency stay of execution for Florida man who killed 8
October 23rd, 2012
09:40 PM ET

Court grants emergency stay of execution for Florida man who killed 8

Editor's note: A diagnosed schizophrenic convicted of killing eight people in Florida in the late 1970s is awaiting word as to whether his execution will go forward. John Ferguson had been scheduled to be executed Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET at the Florida State Prison, but a district court has granted him a stay. Read below for updates.

[Updated at 11:30 p.m. ET]   There will be no execution of John Ferguson Tuesday night. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-second attempt by state authorities to allow the lethal injection of the Florida death row inmate to proceed as scheduled.

[Updated at 9:40 p.m. ET] The fate of a death row inmate in Florida is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time Tuesday, after a frantic day of appeals from lawyers for John Ferguson.

In the latest legal move, Florida officials asked the justices to allow the lethal injection to proceed as scheduled, after a federal appeals court in Atlanta blocked the execution from taking place.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue an order sometime before midnight.

The high court earlier in the day had allowed corrections officials to go ahead with the capital punishment, but Ferguson's legal team went back and asked the appeals court to intervene. For now he remains on death row. Florida officials said Ferguson was being readied for the procedure when notified of the latest appeal.

[Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET]The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta has issued a stay of execution, so the state of Florida has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

[Updated at 7:26 p.m. ET] The U.S. Supreme Court has denied all three of Ferguson's appeals. However, a new appeal has been filed at the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, press secretary with the Florida Department of Corrections.

Ferguson's execution had been scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. Rackleff said her department is waiting to learn whether the execution will go forward today.

Ferguson had no visitors today, Rackleff said. In anticipation of the execution, he had a "last meal" of a country fried sandwich and sweet tea, she said.

The 11th Circuit court is the same court that lifted a stay of execution granted by a lower federal court. The lower court had granted the stay because of concerns about Ferguson's mental capacities.

[Updated at 5:29 p.m. ET] The U.S. Supreme Court has denied two of Ferguson's three appeals seeking stays of execution. We're still awaiting the decision on the third.

[Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET] It looks like all of the appropriate briefs have been filed for the Supreme Court to consider John Ferguson's case, CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears reports.

The decision should come in the next few hours.

[Updated at 1:25 p.m. ET] Laurel Bellows, the president of the American Bar Association, who rarely comments on upcoming executions, said she was "alarmed" by the John Ferguson case.

Ferguson, scheduled to die tonight in Florida, has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

Here's Bellows' full statement:

"The American Bar Association is alarmed that Florida is poised to execute John Ferguson, a man diagnosed as severely mentally ill for more than 40 years, before the constitutionality of his execution is fully evaluated. Although a district court evidentiary hearing regarding Ferguson's competency is scheduled for Friday, that could be too late: His execution could occur as soon as today.

A federal trial judge had stayed Ferguson’s execution and ordered the hearing to afford 'full, reflective consideration' of Ferguson’s constitutional claims; however, that stay has now been lifted by the court of appeals. In the interest of justice, it is imperative that Ferguson’s execution be again stayed until there is an opportunity for the federal courts to fully review his insanity claims on the merits and thus ensure that his execution will be constitutional. To do otherwise would be to risk a terrible miscarriage of justice — one that can never be undone."

[Posted at 10:00 a.m. ET] The attorney for a Florida man convicted of killing eight people asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday for an emergency stay of execution, he told CNN.

John Ferguson, a diagnosed schizophrenic, is on death row for the murders in Hialeah and Carol City, Florida, in the late 1970s.

He was scheduled to be executed Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET at the Florida State Prison.

The Supreme Court "has said it’s a ‘miserable spectacle’ to execute the insane," Chris Handman, the Washington D.C.-based attorney for Ferguson, told CNN. “We think the court should intervene to stop that execution from going forward today."

Read the petition (PDF)

Handman said a court found that Ferguson was mentally ill and had delusions which caused him to think he is the "Prince of God." A stay had been granted by a federal district court because of concerns about his mental capacities but that ruling was reversed by an appeals court.

"We think there are substantial constitutional questions here that will merit the Supreme Court of the United States to honor the stay of execution," Handman said. "We hope to hear from the Supreme Court in the next few hours."

In the meantime, officials at the prison in Starke, Florida, will go ahead with preparations for the execution, including fixing Ferguson's last meal, Misty Cash with the Florida Department of Corrections told CNN.

soundoff (368 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    All I know is this guy must have been on "dearh row" for a long long time.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Albro

    So long as he NEVER gets out, who cares if he's alive? In a cage, or in the ground, as long as he doesn't kill any more.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • kim

      bc we have to pay for him to live, every day cost about $130...

      October 23, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • waves

      I have no problems with paying for his incarcaration. I don't agee with the death penalty, but I do believe in life in prison with out the chance of parole. I believe it is important for a person incacaration to discover what they have done is wrong and feel the weight of that guilt. If a person can discover the weight of that guilt, they probably are insane. I am also very much against the death penalty, because the amount of innocent people who have been executed. I would rather allow for every guilty person to walk free than to execute one innocent person.

      October 23, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • TheTruth

      No such thing as "no possibility of parole" – it gets overridden by parole boards and governors all too routinely.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judith

      @ The Truth. That is a fallacy often put forward by the pro-death penalty groups but the real truth is that a sentence of "Life without possability of Parole, Probation or Pardon" can only be overturned by an appeal court if innocence is proven. Nobody, not even the President can overturn such a sentence.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • sorro

      @Judith - I trust GOD more. If we execute him, only God can undo that. Not the president, not the appeal court, not a judge or 50,000...

      October 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      so how about we bill you for his upkeep for the next 20 years

      October 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. c.r.h

    Who is there to support the victims.... so sick of the Guilty having more rights then their victims....

    October 23, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • snowdogg


      October 23, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bohemer

    Late 70s and only now is execution nearing?..Something is seriously rotten with the system. Either get rid of the executions entirely, or set a deadline for exhausting all appeals. Over three decades is really troublesome..If he killed 8 people, he should have been dead looong time ago.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Malcolm C

      Since DNA testing has come on the scene there are many long term, and death row, prisoners that have since been proven innocent. I'm sure they are happy that their execution wasn't carried out as quickly as you feel it should have been!!

      October 23, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • norman

      Malcom C–all right bleeding heart-cite one instance in which an innocent man was executed-it hasnt happened

      October 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. timmaahhyy

    how much does it cost per day to keep this guy alive? Still on death row for murders he commited over 30 years ago. Enough already. He will never be rehabilitated and he has been a drain on society for most if not all of his life. be done with it.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Uarrntrite

    He's going to die eventually anyway. Today is as good as then next to cleanse the planet of this defect.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. RobK

    He is in jail, until some crazy governor lets him out. Even "no possibility of parole" can be voided by a liberal governor.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • r

      I wondered how some bozo would politicize this and BOOM, there it is.

      October 23, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • lest we forget

      it wasn't some "liberal" governor who let out the killers in mississippi, it was repub barbor a conservative. tell me what liberal governor let out killers. i'm waiting!!

      October 23, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Bigboard

      @lest we forget. While technically not a pardon, Michael Dukakis supported the "furlough" program that put Willie Horton on the street to kill again.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • TheTruth

      One of the Manson Family members was just recommended for parole.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 1amazed1

    I worked in corrections for 23 years. This is just another ploy to stop his sentence from being carried out. It's funny. When you see a prisoner in prison they act like heathens, trying to physically hurt you. But when in front of the media they cry and make it out to be the victims . With all the things he has done while incarcerated let alone his crime he wants off? Time to pay the piper.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. seyedibar

    Mental illness or not, we're not executing him as punishment. We're executing him to prevent another 8 murders.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Noel Farkingweigh

      No, you're wrong. Goal should definitley be punishment! I'm ok with lethal injection, provided the syringes are full of AIR instead of drugs. Good ole' embolism works fine.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      If you say so . but im fine with it beeing as punishment , or if you prefer seeing to it he never has another opertunity to kill again, at least with the death sentance we are not going to get a repeat preformance. so let me pull the handle or push the button or inject the serum or just through the switch. problem solved

      October 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dolfie Wulfe

    What if he actually is the Prince of God? Maybe that's why this is taking so long to solve.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • r

      Same odds as there actually being a god, or gods...

      October 23, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jesse Pinkman

    I think it's about time for him to take a permanent dirt nap. It's long overdue.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Hot Carl

      Shouldn't you be cooking? Back to work, smurf!

      October 23, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. Russell's Teapot

    You're right, he is SO living the high life right now in an 8×9 cell, 23 hours a day with minimal to no human contact. Death row is exactly the cake walk you make it out to be.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Zebula

      Point made. That's why the merciful thing to do is to execute him already.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • LlamaSteve

      Not making it out to be a cakewalk. What does it cost the American taxpayers to keep him there 30+ years? Too much! Like stated previously, the deterrent loses a lot if its sting with these drawn out sentences.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      And it's not like this man lived everyday thinking it was his last... unlike his victims, he'll know when his time is up.... he'll even get a last meal of whatever he likes, again, way more than his victims received.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Whyspurr

      It isn't a deterrent. One look at the Texas system makes that clear.

      And the reason he's been locked up so long? Is BECAUSE he's insane. Two of his accomplices in the Carol City slayings, Beauford White and Marvin Francois, were both executed in the 1980s. The third, who stayed in the car the entire time, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against the other three.

      Florida would have killed him 20 years ago if they could have. Not sure how they're getting around the fact that he's insane now.

      October 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • DEspo

      It has been proven long ago that capital punishment is not a deterrent. It is way more costly, due to the lengthy appeals process, to condemn a person to death than it is to to house him in prison for life.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheTruth

      It is, however, justice.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • linda123

      The death penalty doesn't have a damn thing to do with justice. The death penalty is about VENGENCE. And vengenge, sir, Never.

      October 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      Total bs revenge is fun and is our right!

      October 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • norman

      youre completely wrong-it is absolutely a deterrent-no executed person has ever committed another murder

      October 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • JP

      That just proves we need to kill the quicker

      October 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      I am not saying that this man should or shouldn't die, but the belief that the death penalty, regardless of time to execution, is a deterrent is just plain wrong for one simple reason–heinous crimes, especially murders, are not acts of a logically functioning mind. Murder is a crime of rage, passion, or pathology. Those contemplating murder or in the act of murdering do not stop to weigh the consequences of their actions. The death penalty is perhaps an effective means for eliminating serial offenders or those deemed incapable of rehabilitation from the population, but it is not a deterrent.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • tinman

      it may not deter others, but i guarantee he won't do it again

      October 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It actually costs more to execute someone. Death row costs $137 million annually. Prison costs $11.5 million. Put him in his cell. Give him some food and leave him there. He will die evenutally.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      It costs more to execute him than keep him alive. Also, execution has been proven to have no deterrent effect. Want to try again?

      October 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      costs way more to kill him than just to imprison him for 30-50 years. Got any more bright ideas?

      October 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laerrus

      That just sounds like living in an apartment...

      October 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobpitt

      Actualy bigger than an apartment in Honk Kong

      October 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wizmo

      In New York

      October 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • AM

      All the more reason to take him to the the little bed at the end of death row and finish the job with a needle. I prefer a short rope and a long drop, but... Whatever.

      October 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jordi Heguilor

      Hanging is far more merciful than lethal injection. The drop breaks the spinal cord, and death is instantaneous. Whatever you think of the death sentence, torture is NEVER acceptable.

      Use an oxygen mask with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and death would be quick and painless.

      October 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      wh should he have a painless death did those 8 people get a painless death? Burn this monster at the stake!

      October 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • MomOf3

      He's alive, isn't he? His victims, however, are not... He should have been executed before he was able to 'perfect' his insanity defense!

      October 23, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • charlie

      8 X 9 cell is still bigger than 6 X 2 coffin. 23 hours a day with little human contact is still more than those 8 people have. death row is exactly the cake walk it's made out to be. 3 meals a day, exercise, internet. after you've been there russell, then come talk to me.

      October 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      Well compared to the alternative, it sure as heck like living at the Hilton. Schools should be so lucky to get the money spent on an inmate a year.

      October 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jkflipflop

      How much of a life are those 8 people he murdered living? I guess he's living it up next to them, huh?

      October 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      He's better off than the 8 people he killed this POS should be executed in the worst way possable!!!

      October 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      cant pay the price then dont kill others. and he should die the same death he gave others

      October 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      they should take his shoes and grind fresh glass for him floors daily. i would even support the hitler pineapple daily for this heap of human excrement. hang him and lets get on with cleansing the herd

      October 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • GHG

      It's a cakewalk compared to the graveyard path over the decomposed remains of his VICTIMS, you bleeding heart idiot.

      October 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tengu

      And whos fault is that?? Kill him already.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dakotaxile

    I used to be pro-death penalty. Now I am anti-death penalty. The death penalty is a real old method of justice that goes back to a time when we were unable to house prisoners and had no choice but to put them down in order to protect society. The threat they pose now is very minimal in the current modern prison systems. Plus in some states it is costing more tax dollars to actually execute an inmate than to house them for life. The money wasted on executing some one would be better spent on education and other programs designed to break the cycle that leads to a life of crime. I often wonder how many people were actually innocent that we sent to their death.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      unable to house prisoners, what planet you from, have you ever heard of dungens or the stocks. man has kept prisoners ever since we got the first war itch. you are loseing ground quick with that nonsence, there has never been a time when man didnt lock man up for being anti whatever. i suggest you do some learning then come back and talk like an adult

      October 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • philabias

      and 1 muderer dead is worth 100 pounds of your so called cure

      October 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hot Carl

    Buh-bye. Buh-bye.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fred Flinstone

    On July 27, 1977, John Ferguson, posing as a Florida Power and Light employee, was let into a home by Margaret Wooden to check the electrical outlets. After looking in several rooms, Ferguson drew a gun, then bound and blindfolded Wooden. Ferguson let two men, Marvin Francois and Beauford White, into the home to continue searching for drugs and money.
    Two hours later, the owner of the home, Livingston Stocker, and five friends returned home and were bound, blindfolded, and searched by Ferguson, Francois, and White. The seven bound and blindfolded people were then moved from the living room to a bedroom.

    Later, Wooden’s boyfriend, Michael Miller, entered the house and was bound, blindfolded, and searched. Miller and Wooden were moved to another bedroom together and the other six men were moved to the living room.

    At some point in the evening, Marvin Francois’ mask fell off and his face was revealed to the others. Wooden heard shots coming from the living room, where Francois was shooting the men. Ferguson placed a pillow over Wooden’s head and then shot her. Not fatally wounded, Wooden saw Miller being shot and heard Ferguson run from the room.

    When the police arrived, they found six dead bodies, all of which had their hands tied behind their back and had been shot in the back of the head. Johnnie Hall survived a shotgun blast to the head and testified regarding the execution of the other men in the living room.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
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