Gov. Rick Scott grants temporary halt to execution of Pasco man for mental evaluation

Published May 14, 2014

A Pasco County man set to be executed next month for the 1985 murder of his wife will get a temporary reprieve while three psychiatrists determine if he is sane.

Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order that appoints the three doctors to examine John Ruthell Henry, whose attorneys have said he is insane and therefore can't be executed.

Henry's attorneys say their client's mental state has deteriorated and he experiences hallucinations and delusions.

Henry, 63, was convicted in Pasco of stabbing his wife, Suzanne Henry, to death in Zephyrhills in 1985. This is the murder for which the governor has signed the death warrant, but it is not Henry's only crime.

He also was convicted in Hills­borough County of fatally stabbing Suzanne Henry's 5-year-old son and pleaded no contest to second-degree murder for fatally stabbing another woman, Patricia Roddy, in 1976.

Defense attorney Baya Harrison III said on May 5 that a key point would be Henry's current mental state. "In order to be executed, you have to be able to understand, to rationally understand, that you are going to be put to death," Harrison said last week.

Harrison said the question will be, "Is he so mentally ill that he cannot understand and comprehend what's going to happen to him? And if he can't, the law says he can't be executed."