Federal Court Halts Execution Of Mentally Ill Man Who Believes He Is The ‘Prince Of God’

Death Row Inmate John Errol Ferguson

On Saturday, a federal trial court in Florida granted an emergency stay of execution to Florida inmate John Errol Ferguson. Ferguson has paranoid schizophrenia and a history of hallucinations. He believes that he is the “Prince of God” and that the Florida prisons are preparing him for “ascension.” Ferguson was scheduled to be executed tomorrow.

The order by Judge Daniel Hurley, a Clinton appointee, provides simply that Ferguson’s execution must not take place at least until Hurley is able to hold a hearing on his petition for a more lasting relief and fully consider Ferguson’s case. Oral arguments are currently scheduled before Judge Hurley on Friday.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Ferguson’s request to consider his case last week. The reason why this was not the end of Ferguson’s ability to seek legal relief is because the U.S. Supremes turned aside an appeal from a Florida Supreme Court, and federal law permits inmates to file a petition for a “writ of habeas corpus” in federal trial court once all state court avenues have been exhausted, even if the U.S. Supreme Court declines to review the state judiciary’s decision.

Nevertheless, Ferguson’s fate is far from certain. Even if he convinces Judge Hurley to declare him unfit to be executed, his decision will appeal to the notoriously conservative Eleventh Circuit, and Ferguson’s case could ultimately land in the Supreme Court.