Tag Archives: mental illness

Act now to prevent the execution of John Ferguson

Contact Florida Governor Rick Scott and ask that he convene the Board of Executive Clemency to commute the death sentence of John Ferguson because he is incompetent to be executed. The sentence can be commuted to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Here’s how to contact Governor Scott:

Gov. Rick Scott
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: 850-488-7146
Email: Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com


Here’s why:

The execution of John Ferguson by the state of Florida has been scheduled for 6:00 PM on October 23.

Ferguson was sentenced to death for a 1977 mass murder in Miami Dade, which he committed shortly after the state released him from a mental hospital against the warnings of several state-appointed psychiatrists. During his incarceration, state appointed experts have continued to diagnose him with paranoid schizophrenia.

The crimes of which Ferguson was convicted are horrific:

Posing as a power company repairman, Ferguson entered a home where he and two others shot to death six people in an execution style line up. Back then, the Miami Herald called it “the worst mass murder in Dade history.” Ferguson was also convicted of the 1978 murder of two teens from nearby Hialeah.

His role in these crimes is not at dispute. His mental condition is. Among his delusional thoughts, Ferguson believes he is the “prince of God.”

The Florida Supreme Court has found that Ferguson is a paranoid schizophrenic. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Panetti v. Quarterman, ruled that criminal defendants sentenced to death may not be executed if they do not understand the reason for their imminent execution.

Despite the Panetti v. Quaterman decision and despite their finding that Ferguson suffers from schizophrenic paranoia, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Florida may proceed with the execution. The decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

There is no excuse for the crimes of which Ferguson is convicted. They are heinous. I grieve for those who died – I grieve that I cannot find their names.

But, as an editorial in The Miami-Herald concludes, nothing good will come from executing a man with a documented history of mental illness dating back to 1965. A 1975 report noted that Ferguson was dangerous and should not be released.

Executions by the state serve no purpose but revenge and diminish our society. Executions of individuals who are not competent diminishes us even further. The solution is to enact the recommendations of that 1975 report and make certain that Ferguson is never released under any circumstances.

Contact Governor Scott. Ask him to replace the death sentence with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

See you along the Trail.

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A reversal

Life can change in the twinkling of an eye – or at least very quickly some times.

On Monday, an attorney representing Edward Hart Turner had persuaded a U.S. District Court to block, temporarily, Turner’s execution. The argument did not dispute Turner’s guilt. Rather it focused on a Department of Corrections policy that apparently prevented Turner from getting tests about his mental health at the time of killings.

It appeared that the Mississippi would step back and determine if Turner was mentally ill before it decided if it would take his life.

Today things changed. Quickly. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the stay. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the execution. The Governor of Mississippi refused a reprieve.

And Turner received a lethal injection this evening – 8 February 2012 – as scheduled.

Nothing can defend the brutal murders of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry.

However, nothing can justify execution by the state of someone whose mental health, and ability to understand what they are doing, is in question.

See you along the Trail.

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Call for halt to stayed execution in Mississippi

Reuters reports that, on Monday,  a federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the scheduled execution of Edwin Hart Turner in Mississippi. The ruling  will allow attorneys to argue whether the state has improperly kept Turner from getting a psychiatric evaluation. The state was to execute Turner tomorrow – February 8.

The argument is not that Turner is innocent. He was convicted of killing Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry in two separate incidents in Carroll County,

The argument hinges on Turner’s mental health and whether the Mississippi Department of Corrections had improperly prevented a psychiatric evaluation of Turner. The argument goes on to say that information related to his mental health had not been presented during the trial.

His attorney argues that Turner has a “long and extensive” history of mental illness. He shot himself with a rifle when he was 18. He survived but suffered disfiguring wounds to his face.

According to the ACLU:

Courts have established that inmates who are insane – so out of touch with reality that they do not know right from wrong and cannot understand their punishment or the purpose of it – cannot be executed (Ford v. Wainwright ). The Supreme Court has also held that a mentally retarded individual cannot be executed (Atkins v. Virginia).

The court order postpones the execution until at least February 20.

If you live in Mississippi, you can contact the governor and ask him to halt Edwin Hart Turner’s execution.
The Hon. Phil Bryant
Governor of Mississippi

If, like me, you live elsewhere, you can sign a petition to Mississippi officials.

Calling for a halt to this execution in no way condones Turner’s acts. It does not diminish the deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry. It does not minimize the grief of those who love them.

It does say that the state – any state – should not kill – particularly someone who is mentally ill.

See you along the Trail.


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