STARKE -- John Errol Ferguson, 65, was executed Monday evening after serving three decades on Florida’s death row for eight Miami-Dade murders.
His last words unintelligible to witnesses; he was declared dead at 6:17 p.m.
Just hours before, Ferguson dined on standard inmate fare: a meat patty with white bread, steamed tomatoes, potato salad, diced carrots and iced tea.
About an hour before the scheduled execution, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a motion to halt the proceedings.
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“We are gravely disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court denied John Ferguson’s request to clarify the standard for evaluating an individual’s competence to be executed and denied his request to invoke the Court’s categorical bar on the execution of the insane,” Christopher Handman, Ferguson’s attorney, wrote in a statement. “Mr. Ferguson has a documented 40-year history of severe mental illness diagnosed repeatedly by state doctors in state institutions. Mr. Ferguson has been profoundly mentally ill for four decades, pre-dating the crimes for which he is scheduled to be executed, but is now deemed suddenly and inexplicably cured.”
Ferguson was one of a group of armed robbers that killed six people during a bloody home-invasion robbery in Carol City in July 1977. Early the next year, Ferguson killed Belinda Worley and Glenfeldt, both 17-year-old Hialeah High students, during a robbery.
The convicted killer on Monday met with two of his attorneys, Handman and Patricia Brannon, as well as a spiritual advisor: Sister Marina Aranzabal, according to a corrections spokeswoman.
Monday’s execution date comes 10 months after Ferguson, 65, was originally slated to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke.
His lawyers said Ferguson was too mentally ill to fully understand why he was being put to death, successfully earned a stay as the courts explored whether his execution constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment.
Ferguson’s defense team pointed to Ferguson’s longtime diagnoses as a paranoid schizophrenic and that he believed he was the “Prince of God” to be seated at the “right-hand” of God after his death.
After months of legal wrangling, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in May rejected his appeal, upholding a trial judge’s ruling that Ferguson was competent to be executed.
“That most people would characterize Ferguson’s Prince-of-God belief, in the vernacular, as ‘crazy’ does not mean that someone who holds that belief is not competent to be executed,” according to the federal appeals court’s 65-page opinion.
His lawyers insisted that the state courts and the federal appeals court applied the wrong legal standard, set by the U.S. Supreme Court years ago, in determining Ferguson’s competency.
Ferguson was the fifth Florida Death Row inmate to be executed since December.
In May, Gov. Rick Scott also signed a death warrant for Miami killer Marshall Lee Gore, but his execution has twice been stayed as his lawyers seek to halt his execution based on claims he too is mentally ill and should not executed.
Prosecutors convicted Ferguson of the July 1977 murders of six people in Carol City during a home-invasion robbery. At the time, it was considered the worst mass murder in Miami-Dade history.
The dead: Livingstone Stocker, 33, Michael Miller, 24, Henry Clayton, 35, John Holmes, 26, Gilbert Williams, 37, and Charles Cesar Stinson, 35. Two survived: Johnnie Hall, 45, and Margaret Wooden, 24.
Ferguson was also convicted separately of murdering Belinda Worley and Brian Glenfeldt, both 17-year-old Hialeah High students, in January 1978. The two had gone for ice cream, then parked at a field known as a popular lover’s lane.
Police said Ferguson tried robbing the couple, shooting Brian behind the wheel of his mother’s 1974 Pontiac LeMans, while her body was discovered a quarter-mile away; she had been raped and shot.
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 robbery and killing of an elderly couple at a Miami motel.