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. Joeself

    Even Native Americans didn't kill insane people. This guy, if he was insane when he committed the crime (and being schizophrenic=psychotic=insane=crazy, that's very likely), wasn't responsible for his behavior. I can't believe he was even sentenced to execution. I watch real life murder investigations on TV almost every night and there are people out there who know what they're doing and commit crimes like this. THEY are responsible but they're not schizophrenic. He should be put in a hospital for the criminally insane IMHO. This is already a miscarriage of justice and it never should have gone this far!

    October 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. anonymous

    You should let him decide what his god apparently has chosen for him. The world sometimes has a way of making people out to be what they need them to be. Weak. Crazy. Manipulated. Nothing will bring back those that are gone. Sometimes death is too good for some. Sometimes life can be the same. Simple fact is you cannot judge what you were not part of. All life is precious, and can be learned from. When you argue it being a matter of money you are placing value on something that is invaluable. Therefore putting a value upon yourself.~

    October 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mr big stuff

    It is important that people who do crimes like this receive punishment equivalent to the crime.
    It is important to the rest of us.
    It reinforces the idea of right and wrong for all of us.
    We all need reinforcement that right is right, wrong is wrong, and that exceptions do not exist.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • A rational voice

      It has been proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent. As for the no exception rule, a person protecting his loved ones and kills an intruder still commits murder, so should they be punished the same as any other person who commits murder. If you answered no then you have already made an exception. If you answered yes, you should call the police because someone stole your compassion.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue

      Sorry, but a man who can butcher someone's daughter and steal her life in violence, her entire life, should not do so knowing that he will get a free cage/hotel for life, and 3 square meals, and on the taxpayer's dollar. If you ask me, such a person should know when committing such an act against a beautiful life, that they can expect to get an expedited .10 cent bullet, and that I'd be happy to deliver it.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth be told

      This planet is overpopulated. We are broke. We should not be supporting ANY person, convicted of a murder, for life. You can either be rehabilitated or you can't. For the latter, a swift execution should be solution. (For the record, I am pro-execution, pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and pro-sterilization).

      Too many idiots are being allowed to procreate. We need to end it.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      People of the United States of America,
      This "Bleeding Heart Syndrome" for Killers has to stop,mental illness or not, 8 people are in the ground and worm food because this Black Man killed them.He has not been executed in what 30 plus years,it's time for him to "Leave to Building" ala Elvis.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sweede

    Top 6 countries in executing their own citizens in 2010:

    1. China
    2. Iran
    3. North Korea
    4. Yemen
    5. USA
    6. Saudi arabia

    Nice company you guys have... Its almost like Bush's "axes of evil..."

    October 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tengu

      It is AXIS of evil, not AXES and it is also a list of some of the most populated areas. Higher population, equals higher crime rate. Also the statement that the death penalty has been proven to NOT be a deterrent is a lie. I have not yet seen a report of a single one of the executed criminals ever harming anyone again. If he was innocent he has had since the 70's to prove it. Even if mentally ill, he has violent tendencies that caused the death of several people and doesnt deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      You are incorrect, the death penalty does NOT deter crime - if it did, logically, we'd have no more murders in states where the death penalty is used. And yet Texas is a leading state in murder per capita, and one of the states that'll execute you at the drop of the hat.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue

      Sorry, Drew, but a man who can butcher someone's daughter and steal her life in violence, her entire life, should not do so knowing that he will get a free cage/hotel for life, and 3 square meals, and on the taxpayer's dollar. If you ask me, such a person should know when committing such an act against a beautiful life, that they can expect to get an expedited .10 cent bullet, and that I'd be happy to deliver it.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mr big stuff

    Sweede, it's "axis of evil", not "axes of evil".

    October 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    What it is, is that Obama and Congress are working hard to take your Second Amendment rights to bear arms away from Americans. If he gets in a second term, you will most likely see this become reality.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      I've been hearing this crap from gun nutz for 30 years.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    If Ferguson or someone like him, made a home invasion on your property, are you going to sit back and just let him kill you or a loved one?

    October 24, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      Oh yes, I will have a gun just in case that happens...

      October 24, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. wiseup

    Wiseup: This guy has been on death row since the 70's. Why does it take 30 to 40 years to carry out justice? Why do their attorney's wait until hours away to reopen appeals? People feel that lethal injections is cruel and unusual. I feel the best solution is simple. If the inmate shot victims ,shoot him. If he strangle victims, put a plastic bag over his head. Etc. If it was okay for the victims it should be okay for the inmate.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    I always thought that the purpose of execution was to set an example and to show to anyone contemplating murder that this is what will happen if you kill. It should not matter on your physical or mental condition. Some executions these days are done only to exact revenge and not to set an example.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. wiseup

    Wiseup: Last November (2011 ) Florida executed a man who sweet talked a mother and 16 and 14 year old daghters,who were from a small rural Ohio village,vacationing iin Tampa Bay.The ladies met thisguy at their hotel. He gave them directions to the dock where his boat was. Once on the boat he tok them a ways out stopped the boat. What happened they are not sure if he had help .But about 4 days later the three partially clad bodies were found by afisherman . their hands were duct taped with cinder blocks tied to their feet. Iwould have tied a block to him cuff him and throw him in the bay.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Troy Fugnitti

    I truly disagree with the amount of time a person spends on death row. I also don't care on his mental state. he was found guilty of the crime. He was fit to stand trial. No prison isn't a cake walk, but death row isn't general population.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. A rational voice

    I am going to go against the grain of most comments here. This is a man who is definitely ill. He does not deserve to be executed. Yes, he did kill people and deserves to be kept locked up. But I can not in good conscience allow our government to kill him. He is not hurting anyone in prison, he is not breaking the law. What do we as a society gain by executing him?

    October 24, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • fairforall

      We would gain about $30,000 per year.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      We gain closure and see our justice system works! If it were your friends or family members he murdered would you seek justice?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Sven

      This man is guilty of several heinous crimes. Do society a favor and remove him from society permanetly. Aside from saving society money for incarceration it will bring closure to the victims families. As far as I'm concerned he has the same rights right now as his victoms didn't have.......a peaceful death due to natural causes. Only his is by lethal injection.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kat

    Mr Furgeson was not insane when he posed as a policeman and murdered two very good friends of mine. He murdered six people while out on parole then he took the lives of my to dear friends. He rapped my friend then shot her and took her jewelery. He shot my other friend in the head and took his money and wallet. He is a cold blooded murder who has been playing the system for 35 years.Mr Furgeson deserves to be executed for his crimes because he did not become mentally till after he committed his crimes. There was no justice for the families of the ones he murdered why should be allowed to escape punishment?

    October 24, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      This is one of the reasons why this country is so poor, we would rather fight for ones who have committed crimes vice the good citizens who have done nothing wrong. I'm not sure how much it costs to house a criminal in a jail or state prison, per year, but i'm sure we could use that money on other things beside them.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ROMNEY2012

    he should die BECAUSE he is mentally ill.
    Why waste tax dollars keeping god forsaken trash like this alive?
    Obama's welfare state at work.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Lee Green

    People who kill people unjustly should die no matter their mentality. The mentality or a defective person to kill unjustly is a person that does not belong in the civilized world.It belongs in hell.Therefore it should be sent there immediately as were their victims regardless of the method used to do it.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
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