On Monday, the State of Florida executed John Errol Ferguson, a 35 year resident of Florida’s Death Row. It was a very controversial case and many believed that Mr. Ferguson should have been spared capital punishment because he suffered from severe mental illness. Ferguson was diagnosed as being schizophrenic – his schizophrenia isn’t disputed.
Indeed, Ferguson proclaimed himself to be the “Prince of God” and his mental illness was readily apparent long before the murders were committed upon which his death sentence was based. (His last words, according to the Miami Herald, were “I just want everyone to know that I am a Prince of God and I will rise again.”)
Still, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the death penalty for John Errol Ferguson and outcries from the public (like this Palm Beach Post editorial) and briefing from the American Bar Association (see the July 26, 2013 brief, where inconsistencies under state application of the Panetti v. Quarterman standard were argued for a stay) were unsuccessful.
Read the ABA Amicus Brief here by clicking on this image:
For more on schizophrenia, check out The National Institute of Mental Health’s explanation (”a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder….") or the information provided by the Mayo Clinic (”a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior….”).