The Eleventh Circuit has stayed the execution of Florida Death Row inmate John Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic, a day after it vacated its previous stay and sent Ferguson’s attorneys rushing to the U.S. Supreme Court for emergency action.
These are temporary holds while more legal arguments are made. It’s still a very good possibility that Mr. Ferguson will be executed by the State of Florida despite being seriously mentally ill.
Perhaps the ABA pointing out that there are basic constitutional rights to be considered here made a difference? Here, the press statement released by American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows on the day that John Ferguson was set to die this week:
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 23, 2012 – 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.