A Florida death row inmate is trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to spare his life after Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant Tuesday. If taken up, the case could affect mental-fitness standards for execution and help determine whether federal courts must defer to state courts.
John Errol Ferguson’s lawyer is appealing to the high court after an Atlanta federal appeals court lifted a stay on his execution on Tuesday. Ferguson was convicted of eight Miami-area murders in the 1970s. But attorney Chris Handman says, Ferguson has never understood his execution would mean permanent death.
“Mr. Ferguson thinks he’s being executed because he is the right hand, or the prince, of God and that nothing is going to happen to him afterward," Handman says. "That’s not a rational understanding.”
He says the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that people must understand what execution means before they can be put to death. He says in lifting the execution stay, a federal court judge wrote that the Florida Supreme Court had incorrectly ignored federal precedent, but the appeals court was bound by deference to the state.
Without action from the U.S. Supreme Court, Ferguson is set to be executed Aug. 5.