UPDATED 10:05 pm.   After the Supreme Court acted, the Eleventh Circuit Court delayed the execution and set a briefing schedule on legal issues surrounding the state Supreme Court’s rejection of the challenge.  The state then promptly asked the Supreme Court to vacate that stay, but the Supreme Court quickly refused to do so.  The Justices’ final order is here, thus leaving the stay intact.


Lawyers’ repeated efforts to spare the life of a Florida death-row inmate who believes that he is the “Prince of God” failed in the Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon as the Justices several times refused to delay his scheduled execution this evening.  Although lower state and federal courts conceded that John Errol Ferguson suffers from a severe psychotic disorder, they have ruled that he is competent enough to understand why he is being put to death.  He was given the death sentence for eight murders in 1977 and 1978.

Along with appeals and stay applications filed by Ferguson’s own lawyers, several mental health organizations in Florida urged the Supreme Court to put off his execution until the Justices or lower courts could give a fuller consideration to just how mentally ill he is.   The mental health groups contended in a filing Tuesday that Ferguson is “deeply disturbed” and does not have “any genuine understanding of the reason for his execution.”   He is suffering, those groups said, from a “grandiose delusion” centered around religion, believing that after death he will “ascend to the right hand of God.”

Just as the Court gave no reason last week for refusing to delay Ferguson’s death sentence, it gave no reasons for refusing again on Tuesday.   Justice Stephen G. Breyer had voted last week to postpone the execution, but did not note a dissent from the three orders issued Tuesday afternoon; those orders are here, here, and here.   Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has taken no part in any of the Court”s consideration of this case.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, UPDATED: Florida execution delayed, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 23, 2012, 5:27 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/10/efforts-to-spare-florida-inmate-fail/