John Errol Ferguson has been on Florida’s death row since 1978 after killing eight people, and is scheduled to be executed at 6 PM EST on Monday. However, there’s one problem: Ferguson is a paranoid schizophrenic who calls himself “the Prince of God,” and several appeals against his execution have been denied.
According to Reuters:
“The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) filed an amicus brief last week, along with three Florida mental health organizations, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing that Ferguson had a long history of severe mental illness.
“The brief argues that Ferguson's execution would violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring an individual to have a rational understanding of why he is being put to death and the effect of the death penalty.”
"The death penalty is not constitutionally allowable as a punishment for John Ferguson because his delusions prevent him from understanding the nature of what is happening to him," Ron Honberg, NAMI's national director of policy and legal affairs, told Reuters.
The report continues:
“Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Ferguson's death warrant in September, but a few weeks later delayed the execution while a team of physicians met to decide whether Ferguson was mentally competent.
“After a 90-minute examination and brief consultation a panel of psychiatrists determined that Ferguson was sane. A state circuit judge agreed in a ruling.
“The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in May rejected his appeal, ruling that Ferguson was mentally competent.
"That most people would characterize Ferguson's Prince-of-God belief, in the vernacular, as 'crazy' does not mean that someone who holds that belief is not competent to be executed," the appeals court found.”
In a somewhat similar story, Warren Lee Hill, a mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61, recently had two executions stayed as the constitutionality of his punishment has been debated in court.