Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mentally Challenged People on Death Row

John Errol Ferguson Case: Daniel T.K. Hurley, U.S. District Judge, Grants Stay Of Execution

MIAMI -- A federal judge on Saturday granted a stay of execution for a convicted mass killer in Florida, who is mentally ill and was scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday, October 23, 2012.

U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley granted the motion for a stay in the case of John Errol Ferguson, who was to be executed Tuesday after 34 years on Florida's death row ... Ferguson's attorneys maintain he is insane and that the Constitution prohibits the state from executing him.

"The issues raised merit full, reflective consideration," the court said.
See the entire article at this link

Many people object to Ferguson being executed because of his schizophrenia. The National Lawyers Guild Disability Rights Committee issued an "Emergency Resolution in Opposition to the Execution of John Ferguson, a Mentally Ill Florida Death Row Inmate" that helps us understand the issue of mental illness and capital punishment. The Committee wrote in part:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, MEETING AT ITS OCTOBER 2012 CONVENTION IN PASADENA, CALIFORNIA, condemns in the strongest terms the scheduled execution of John Errol Ferguson, a severely mentally ill African American man who has spent the last 34 years on death row, on the ground that it would be cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and would also violate international conventions on human rights to which the United States is a party, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and urges officials in the State of Florida to stop the scheduled execution and commute Mr. Ferguson’s death sentences to life imprisonment.
There have been numerous executions of mentally incompetent persons despite the constitutional law against unusual punishment. Jonathan Green, a mentally ill Texan, was killed on October 10. See a report from Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) below:
MENTAL ILLNESS: Federal Court Stays Texas Execution Because of Inadequate Hearing

Jonathan Green was scheduled for execution in Texas on October 10, but a federal judge issued a stay because the state did not afford him due process in examining his mental competency. UPDATE: The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the stay of execution and Green was executed on Oct. 10 as planned.