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. me me

    i feel he's not to insane when he took the time to go undercover as an electrician went to someone's house and then had help from two other guys tied up the eight ppl blind folded them and shot them u can say insane all u want to but everything u do hv meaning behind it .he took the lives of seven that they cant get bck so wat do u think he deserves.and besides he spent thirty years in prison already.its time for the victims family to put their minds at ease.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hahaa

    The crime was the slaying of the 'Carol City Six' in a home-invasion robbery in July 1977 – the worst mass murder in Dade history at the time.
    With two others, Ferguson entered a home under the guise of electrical worker and tied up eight people, aged between 24 and 45, before shooting them in the heads. Two survived.

    Three months later, Ferguson posed as a police officer and shot two teenagers during an attempted robbery but again the couple survived.
    Then in January 1978, he shot and killed Brian Glenfeldt, 17, and Belinda Worley, 17, as they stopped off at a lover's lane on the way to get ice cream after leaving a Christian youth meeting.
    Investigators said Ferguson had shot Brian in the head before chasing Belinda from the car and raping her. She was found shot dead in a wooded area.


    October 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • duckforcover

      He may be nuts but that's way too much planning and preparation for us to forgive.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Cherries

      I completely agree with Hahaa and duckforcover. It think its more insane to keep him alive.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • IndFL

      HANG HIM!

      October 23, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Annie Sisk

      And? I'm sorry, but the heinousness of the crime is irrelevant if he's schizophrenic. Since we know he is, due to the diagnosis, execution is immoral. That has nothing to do with whether he should be punished – of course he should. But killing a crazy person is just as immoral as what he did.

      October 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • MomOf3

      Just curious...I haven't seen this asked before, but what happened to his two accomplices in the first killing? Were they caught and are they serving time? What were their sentances?

      October 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NB

    Just execute him and drop all the made-for-TV drama.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Romney LOL

    We put down dogs for biting people. Killing 8? Euthanize this moron–schizo or not.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Laerrus

      By that logic we'd have to put down all the cops too...

      October 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Organic1

    Of course the lawyer wants to extend the proceedings, he gets paid that way. While it is cheaper to keep them and not sent them to the killing room, sometimes it is necessary to show what happens when you care so little for the lives of other people, and this case he just needs to fry. Since when have there ever been a mass murderer convicted of being of sound mind? Yea – Never.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      I still do not see how carrying out the death sentence after 5-6 months can be more expensive then keeping these people in jail for 40+ years. Trials should be quicker. Not 2-3+ years after the crime.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Whyspurr

      Okay, Patrick. First off, even those who refuse to pursue appeals don't get executed in 5 or 6 months. More like 2 years for them. And sorry, bud, you can't speed up that process without vastly increasing the risk of executing a person WRONGFULLY. And news flash? Simply locking them up for life without the possibility of parole? Costs a LOT less than maintaining them on death row as they pursue appeal after appeal. And a lot more men and women will die a natural death on death row than will ever be executed.

      I get that you're of the "kill them all and let God sort them out" ilk. Better hope you don't ever get accused of a murder you didn't commit and tossed into a system that believes the way you do.

      October 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. driranek

    When you look at the cost of keeping him incarcerated for decades you're only looking at a part of the cost to society. The part that isn't mentioned is that cases like this are simply cash cows for the legal profession. While his lawyer(s) may be public defenders or otherwise working for 'low' pay (by legal standards) or even pro bono, they're only a small part of the costs – you've also got the prosecutors, judges, a whole series of court systems, and so on. This probably dwarfs the cost of keeping him locked up.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Realist

    35 years in prison and this issue is just coming out now? Really? Get it over with already.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Megan

    The very fact that this man is still alive is very disconcerning. He murdered, was sentenced to death and for almost MY entire life, we tax payers have been feeding him, clothing him, supplying books for him, etc... what has he done??? Nothing. He is a waste of molecules and atoms.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. geckopelli

    Whack 'im!

    October 23, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. NoTags

    The American justic system is just plain, damn broken. He should have been executed 32 years ago. Give people 3 years for appeals, etc. then get on with it.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. LouAZ

    He can't be prince of god. Catholic poop has already claimed that act. He is an imposter. Off with his head !

    October 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. humtake

    I still don't understand the logic behind someone being treated differently because they have some kind of mental retardation. No matter what the person's mind state was at the time, the FACT still does not change that they are a danger to society. If someone is a danger to society, they deserve the same penalties as anyone else. Just because the reason they are a danger is different than someone else, the FACT is that they are still a danger. Get rid of him.

    October 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DMG2FUN

    Does his victims get a stay?

    October 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rob

    Why isn't this guy dead already?

    October 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Dawson

    Executing the "Prince of God"? There's a problem with that. Almost 2000 years ago, they've already Tried that.

    It did not work.

    October 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
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