Scott agrees to pre-execution psych screening for schizophrenic murderer
From The Associated Press:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking a panel of psychiatrists to determine whether a convicted murderer is insane.
Scott on Wednesday agreed to temporarily stay the pending execution of John Errol Ferguson in order to let doctors decide whether or not he understands the death penalty and why he is about to be executed.
The governor in an executive order called for the examination to take place on Oct. 1. Scott says if Ferguson is competent he will proceed with the already-scheduled execution on Oct. 16.
Sixty-four-year-old Ferguson was convicted of murdering six people execution-style in a drug-related crime. Ferguson was also convicted for the murders of two Hialeah teenagers.
Ferguson's attorneys say that he has long exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia and has been plagued by hallucinations and delusions.
Ferguson has been on death row for 34 years, far longer than the average stay of about 12.7 years. Defense attorneys are arguing before the Supreme Court that to execute Ferguson now, after more than three decades, would be cruel and unusual, a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution. Ferguson also is described by his defense attorneys as an "untreated paranoid schizophrenic" who "hallucinates that snakes come out of his cell walls to torment him."
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for Thursday, October 4.
See our story on Ferguson's execution order and grisly crimes, here.