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. ogre12

    There was a time I wholeheartedly supported the death sentence but no longer because of my Christian beliefs. I am satisfied if this man never sees the light of day behind bars. It is challenging for me to pray for this man but even he has hope of salvation though it may be slim. Ultimately it is between HIM and him. I am so sorry for the victims of this terrible man and I pray they be comforted.

    October 23, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      You, sir, are the epitome of a hypocrite. You no longer support the death penalty because of your Christian beliefs which teach that the penalty for even minor infractions is death (read the bible-it's in there). Millions of people throughout history have been killed for your god and in the name of Christianity. And what did those people do to deserve it, other than refusing to bow to your beliefs?

      On the other hand, this guy chose state-assisted suicide by choosing to take the lives of 8 people. He, like many good Christians before you, chose to murder indiscriminately. Those who deserve death are those who choose death.

      October 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. He's Only a Lad....

    (As they push the button I hope they play him that song...)

    Hey there Johnny you really don't fool me
    You get away with murder
    And you think it's funny
    You don't give a damn if we live or if we die
    Hey there Johnny boy
    I hope you fry!

    October 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |

    Put him out ofh is misery fry him

    October 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Benn

    I'm still Benn and I still say civilized and deacent people and countries do not kill or execute people. Maybe they can turn them over to psychiatrists to study them, but we shouldn't lower ourselves by executing people. (or by killing animals through "hunting"). Hunting is murder.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benn's mommy

      And rational grown-up people say Benn is a stupid little boy.

      October 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DustyOnes

      Funny Benn's momma. Take care of him and keep him in the closet. He should not be out on the computer.

      October 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      Oh Benn, It's not murder when I eat it. Maybe it's murder when somone displays the stuffed head on the wall and didn't eat the meat. Common now, please don't deny me my prime rib.

      October 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zaperdon

      Makes sense to me.

      October 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • maureen

      they should study their brains after they are executed

      October 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kenneth Holder

    I might, just might support capital punishment if procecutors and judges could be convicted of attempted murder or even first degeree murder if they were found to have hidden or ignored evidence that would have proven the suspect was innocent (happens all too often in the south!) Then maybe jsutice would be served. But right now that is not the case!

    October 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zaperdon

      I totally agree with you, but know that because lawyers would never write laws that specifically target any member of their snobby profession, hell has a better chance of freezing over than the likely hood of any thing close to what you suggest – too bad though.

      October 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joeself

      I totally agree with you. Unless this guy was on his meds and had a shrink certify him as sane the day he did it, like it or not, you can't execute a crazy man. He should be put in an asylum for the criminally insane. These people who say kill him are just fanatics or trolls IMHO.

      October 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Joeself, They DID put in an asylum for the criminally insane and against professional advice, transferred him to a regular prison and from there he was paroled. He committed these murders AFTER he was paroled. The State of Florida put him back out on the street after 5 doctors recommended that he be locked up for life.

      October 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Almost 300 people on here will let James Holmes walk, when the time comes, just because of the way you screw with the fate of someone that killed 8 people.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Jeff Frank, he's not walking, he's just not getting executed.
      And Holmes will absolutely not walk, either.

      October 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    As your Second Amendment rights slowly fade away, under this Marxist regime, you will no longer be able to protect yourself from mass murderers like the "Prince of G-d". Once you fall prey to a home invasion, people like this "know" they will be able to walk in on you, and do whatever they want to do. And calling 911? Depending on the response time, you might be good as done.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Jeff Frank, please educate me as to what secomd amendment right has been taken away by "this Marxist regime".
      And 911 response time has everything to do with funding cutbacks, which is pretty much a hallmark of Marxist regimes?

      October 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Needless to say, why is this $150,000 a year lawyer putting a stay on execcution anyways? His Thanksgiving Bonus?

    October 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Erik

    OMG. I cannot believe that serious people still argue for this man to live. Our society is so irrevocably screwed up.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      These appeals are not about a valid reason to not execute this man. They're about the defense lawyer milking the system for all it's worth and ripping off the tax payer. (We're the ones paying the defense lawyer.)

      October 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DustyOnes

    If you want people like this to stay alive then "pony up". Start a fund that pays for his incarceration. This really should fall on the family, for all prisioners, but if you have objections.....dig deep.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bilson

    all killing is wrong

    October 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    How can that lawyer appeal to a lower court when the Supreme Court has already denied the appeal? This is not about a valid reason to save this man. Rather, it's about the lawyer milking the system for all it's worth and sucking the blood out of the tax payer. This damn lawyer should be in jail for grand larceny.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nebule

    I find it really difficult to understand something... Please enlighten me... Are any of you death pushers the same people you were when you were, say 12 or , 15 or 25 or 35???

    October 23, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. essmeier

    I'll pretend that I'm a Republican for a moment.

    I hate government!
    I distrust government!
    Government can't do anything right!
    This guy must die!
    Die! Die! Die!

    October 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zaperdon

    So has anyone heard anything? Is he still sucking air?

    October 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
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