STARKE -- Authorities on Tuesday afternoon were preparing to execute Miami mass murderer John Errol Ferguson, who ate his last meal: a “big” chicken country fried sandwich and sweet tea.
He was originally scheduled to died by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at the Florida State Prison.
However, Ferguson will likely not be put to death until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on an emergency petition, filed early Tuesday, to stay the execution.
Ferguson, convicted of eight murders in the late 1970s in Hialeah and Carol City, declined to issue any last public statements. He met with a prison chaplain, according to a corrections spokeswoman.
No family visited him.
Preparations for his execution came after a federal appeals court late Monday lifted a district judge’s stay on the execution.
Ferguson has been on Death Row for more than three decades. A long-diagnosed schizophrenic who lawyers say believes is the “Prince of God,” Ferguson was originally scheduled to be executed Oct. 16.
The execution of a severely mentally ill man amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment,” his lawyers say.
But the execution was delayed until Tuesday, giving a state judge in Bradford time to decide whether Ferguson, 64, was mentally competent to be executed. The judge, after two days of testimony, decided that Ferguson understood why he was to be put to death.
The Florida Supreme Court declined to overturn the decision. But on Saturday, a South Florida federal court judge issued a stay on the execution, saying the issues raised by Ferguson’s lawyers needed to be explored more.
The court originally scheduled three hours of oral arguments on Friday.
But two of three judges with the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta decided that U.S. Judge Daniel Hurley “abused” his discretion in issuing the stay.
“Ferguson has failed to identify clear and convincing evidence upon which [Hurley] could decide that the state court unreasonably determined that Ferguson is competent to be executed,” the judges wrote.
His lawyer, Christopher Handman, said late Monday that he hopes to the U.S. Supreme Court will step in.
“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,” Handman said in a statement.
Ferguson was convicted of the July 1977 murders of six in Carol City during a home-invasion robbery. At the time, it was the worst mass murder in Dade history.
Ferguson, now 64, also was convicted separately of murdering Belinda Worley, a 17-year-old Hialeah High School senior, and Brian Glenfeldt, 17, in January 1978.
Ferguson was also convicted of attempted murder in the robbery of another couple at a lover’s lane. He was a suspect, but never charged, with the brutal robbery-slaying of an elderly couple at a Miami motel.
Michael Worley, Belinda’s brother and only surviving relative, told The Miami Herald this month that he is upset over years of delays.
“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,” he said. “My sister was brutally killed at the age of 17. Her murder shattered our entire family. Life was never the same.”