Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) November 7, 2012 – The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a stay of execution granted by a federal appeals court to John Errol Ferguson, aged 64.
Ferguson is on Florida’s death row for eight killings near Miami in the late 1970s. His lawyers argue that he is mentally ill and should not be executed.
“In cases like this, people might feel like justice is being delayed,” Polk County criminal defense attorney Thomas Grajek said in a statement, “but it is important that every defendant’s rights be protected.”
The stay of execution came just hours before Ferguson was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. The appeals court scheduled motions that apparently will delay the execution for at least two weeks. Ferguson was first sentenced to death 34 years ago.
Ferguson is convicted of shooting eight people execution-style in a botched robbery attempt at a Carol City, Fla. home in late 1977. It was the the worst mass killing in Miami-Dade County history up to that point. He is also convicted of killing a teenage couple in Hialeah, Fla. in 1978.
Ferguson’s lawyers say he is a paranoid schizophrenic who believes he is the “Prince of God.” He was sentenced to die in both of his murder trials, with defense attorneys unsuccessfully arguing his insanity as a defense in the teens’ murders.
A panel of mental health experts appointed by Gov. Rick Scott convinced a court that Ferguson was mentally competent to face execution. The Florida Supreme Court upheld that ruling, saying that Ferguson understands his situation, and officials then scheduled the execution. However, the latest federal appeals court ruling said that the Florida Supreme Court may have made an “unreasonable determination of the facts” regarding Ferguson’s mental health and delayed the execution.
“Our justice system protects those who do not know the difference between right and wrong,” added Mr. Grajek, “and any questions of a defendant’s sanity must be thoroughly addressed.”
Thomas C. Grajek
206 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Lakeland, FL 33803