Florida Man’s Death Sentence Stay Questioned Over Possibility of Mental Insanity

John Errol Ferguson, A Florida man who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1978 for a pair of killing sprees, was sentenced and scheduled for execution by lethal injection, pending a last-minute appeal by lawyers claiming that he is insane. Ferguson has spent 35 years on Florida’s death row for killing eight people, including two teenagers. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) filed an amicus brief last week, along with three Florida mental health organizations, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing that Ferguson had a long history of severe mental illness.

A perfectly normal person of a reasonable mind may still have tendencies toward insanity, particularly when a traumatic event such as a close death or a car accident occurs. No matter what the particular circumstance surrounding the event is, if the person is truly insane during the period of the crime, that person will have to show that something caused this mental infirmity and that the infirmity caused them to be unaware of their actions. If such mental infirmity is proven, the death penalty will not be applicable, as the death penalty is not constitutionally allowable as a punishment for an accused whose delusions prevent him from understanding the nature of what is happening to him. imagesCAL9DNNN.jpg

Many defense attorneys see situations in which an accused’s mental state must be questioned for the benefit and proper protection of the accused. Sometimes, personal statements made by the accused stating they possess some higher power or influence that either gives right to their cause or absolves them of their guilt, can be seen as statements of insanity or delusion. Many times, if the accused’s defense attorney can show that the accused suffered from insane delusions and does not understand the death penalty, nor why it had been imposed, then that form of punishment may be prohibited.

Under Florida Statute 775.027, the defense of insanity allows the accused to show the court that, at the time the crime was said to occur, the accused was suffering a mental infirmity that caused the accused to not know the consequences of one’s actions and that one’s actions were wrong.
In situations where one’s mental state is necessary to prove, and one cannot show that one is competent, one cannot be convicted of nor be sentenced to, a crime that requires malice, or even less, mental competence. Many times, the State will try to find or fathom a way that the State may constitutionally put to death a man who is under delusions, such as in this case. In this case, according to Ferguson’s defense attorney, Ferguson has claimed he is the ‘Prince of God’ and believes he has a destiny of being the right hand of God and returning to purify earth after the State tries to kill him, a statement he made during the State’s previous and failed attempt to execute the man.

Many times, people go through with actions that they would not normally ever think of doing because of altered states of mental acuity. When alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances are involved, these actions are multiplied. When this happens, things said, acts done, and effects rendered can leave the accused in what seems like an insane situation. Many times, this is exactly the case. If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney to fight the case, one can ensure one’s rights will be known and protected.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Miami mass murderer set to be executed later on Monday, David Adams, Reuters.com