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. Bill D.


    October 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pat

    To execute is murder no one has the right to take the life of any human . . . No exceptions

    October 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fernace

    It's horrid that this man has been on deathrow for 34 years! This system must be fixed! I propose a limed numbers of appeals, let's say 3 & a limited amount of time to do it in! After that nothing should stop the process from going forward! This man is no Andrea Yates, who in a delusional state killed her 5 children! Fergusons crimes are a result of "malice aforethought"! He may be schizophrenic, but he certainly knew what he was doing! Schizophrenia is so misunderstood, but I had an uncle w/the disease! On meds he was a great guy; off meds he was sullen & often prone to ranting about precieved injustices toward him! At no point did he get violent, robbed people at gunpoint or murdered 8 human beings! By definition murder is a "crazy persons" crime! Most of us can only imagine killing some1 in self defense, to protect our own or our loved 1s lives & I'll bet it's not something we think about often! He slayed 8 people & attempted to murder another, I'd say in cold blood, "Prince of God" or not! Execute him!!

    October 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    not a perfect system but its the best in the world.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sundog

      What is your basis for comparison? I think Denmark's is better.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      This guy's one of those "Murica's best at everything" types.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe800

      @ SunDog .. so you think Denmark which has less population than the Cities of Brooklyn and Queens, NY and isnt even fractionally as diverse as either has a better system. I bet they do, what's your point besides pointless....

      October 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vermont Hunter

    Toast... save taxpayers some money, get it over with.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sundog

    Eight murders! He ought to be in Arkham Asylum!

    October 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emily Rodriguez Consula

    Maybe I'm wrong but I sure don't think we are supposed to kill people. I don't care what they did. The death penalty is wrong.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      I agree completely, Emily.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BOMBO ©

    Will any of the cable channels cover the execution? A & E or TLC maybe?

    October 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WachetAuf

    Dear Brothers of the Taliban: Turn the other cheek. Do not cast the first stone. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      I agree. And if I were crazy and killed 8 people, I'd want somebody to put me down. Hence, I am perfectly fine with this monster being executed.

      This is not some crazy guy that sits on the side of the street. This is not a man that just went crazy and killed a person in an argument. This is a man that killed EIGHT PEOPLE over TWO YEARS.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TiredOfPaying

    Should have done it 40 years ago. I can't stand that my tax dollars has been spent to keep him alive. Kill him!

    October 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BOMBO ©

    He calls himself the "Prince of God". Does that remind anyone of Andre Hime's ramblings? Maybe it's just me.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mark man

    Too bad we can't kill him 8 times over for the 8 people he killed, drunk or crazy is no excuse, and kill him the way he killed his victims.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JOHN!

    Yeah, this guy's the delusional one...

    October 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Long Qwan

    Me still think it not good to execute peoples. Us American berry civilized. We should no execute peoples.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The Master

    He should have been put down the same day he was convicted. Defective people shouldn't be left to linger around.

    October 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
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