The 1970s Florida killer John Errol Ferguson received a stay of execution in the eleventh hour after an appeals court considered the man’s severe schizophrenia as a mitigating factor in the decision to put him to death.
The 1970s Florida killer has been on death row for an astounding 34 years after committing a brutal mass slaying more than three decades ago in the Sunshine State. Ferguson’s crimes were horrific in nature and breathtakingly wide-ranging in scope, resulting in eight deaths that are confirmed and more suspected.
The 1970s Florida killer was involved in the shooting of eight people in Carol City, two of whom survived the massacre. Six months later, two teens on a date were murdered, the girl raped before her death. When arrested in connection with the Carol City crime, the 1970s Florida killer confessed to the teens’ murder as well.
In addition to those cases, Ferguson was also implicated in the shooting deaths of an elderly couple. But while the acts committed by the 1970s Florida killer are undoubtedly the sort for which the death penalty exists, execution has been delayed due to the severe paranoid delusions and schizophrenia from which the convicted mass murdered suffers.
The 1970s Florida killer was scheduled to be executed at 6 pm Tuesday, a deadline that passed due to appeals court wrangling over the ethical implications of executing a mentally ill man.
In a statement, lawyer for the 1970s Florida killer Christopher Handman says:
“A man who thinks he is the immortal Prince of God and who believes he is incarcerated because of a Communist plot quite clearly has no rational understanding of the effect of his looming execution and the reason for it.”
Families of the victims, however, are not as forgiving when it comes to the fate of the 1970s Florida killer, mental illness or not. Brother of victim Belinda Worley, Michael Worley, told the Miami Herald:
“Outrageous is the fact that for 34 years our tax dollars have been keeping Ferguson alive. Free food, medical care and the ability to communicate with his loved ones and lawyers … My sister was brutally killed at the age of 17. Her murder shattered our entire family. Life was never the same.”
Should severely mentally ill people like the 1970s Florida killer be put to death, or should mental illness of that severity be considered a mitigating factor in applying the death penalty?