Paranoid Schizophrenic Who Claimed To Be “The Prince of God” Executed in Florida

ReasonReasonYesterday John Errol Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic who claimed to be “the prince of God,” was executed in Florida for the murder of six people during a drug-related massacre and two teenagers in a separate incident in the 70s.

The Supreme Court denied a final request for a stay less than two hours before the execution.

From Sky News:

A mentally ill man who claimed to be "the prince of God" has been executed in Florida for the murders of eight people in the late 1970s.

John Errol Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic, was declared dead from lethal injection at 6.17pm local time on Monday.

He made a brief statement in front of 25 witnesses.

"I just want everyone to know that I am the prince of God and will rise again," he said calmly before receiving the injection.

Three minutes into the procedure, he moved his head, strained his neck, moved his feet, put his head back down and closed his eyes.

The entire process took 16 minutes.

According to mental health and legal experts Ferguson was incapable of understanding his punishment. Although it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is insane the 11th 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that Ferguson was mentally competent enough 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.

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  • John||

    Do you really want to die on this hill? The guy killed 8 people. There is no question of his guilt.

  • Acosmist||

    Indeed. Isn't mental illness all fake anyway, Reason? Hmmm?

  • ||

    This (as glib as it may be). Though I don't know if Feeney has ever pushed that view.

  • Irish||

    The issue is whether it's appropriate to execute someone this insane, not whether or not he's guilty.

  • ||

    I think somebody could be schizophrenic and understand their punishment. Though, thinking he will rise again weighs against that. I'm not sure that it should matter though.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Does this mean we can't execute Christians?

  • ||

    Disclaimer: I'm against state administered death penalty but have no moral opposition to the concept of death as a just punishment for certain crimes.

    I don't see what Christians have anything to do with this. I probably lean on the who cares if they are crazy side though.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    They all believe they will rise again, don't they? If that belief weighs against understanding the punishment in this particular case, wouldn't it weigh against it all cases involving Christians?

  • ||

    We don't know much about what this guy meant but thinking your going to be resurrected and moving on to heaven are different things.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Not to get too much into it, aren't there Christians who believe they'll be resurrected and be on earth for 1000 years or some such?

    This guy didn't give much of a timeframe, but I'm not sure his supposedly insane belief is meaningfully different from the beliefs we seem to accept on the part of Christians.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    So do Buddhists and Hindus, albeit in a different form.

  • DJF||

    Actually thinking he could rise again would be a good reason to execute him since he would fear no punishment and could kill again. Being dead and not risen is probably the best place for him.

  • Eitan||

    What is dead may never die.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "[T]his insane?"

    Was there evidence that he didn't understand that murdering people was against the law or that he couldn't control himself or anything of the sort? Or that he didn't understand he was being executed?

  • Anonymoose||

    If he thought he was on a mission from god that means he thought he was doing the right thing doesn't it?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Thinking you are doing the right thing, if we accept that for the moment, isn't the same as not knowing that it's against the law.

  • Anonymoose||

    Doesn't the law of god (if there was one) overrule the law of man?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    That remains to be seen but, at best, that's a much longer term play.

  • Irish||

    Was there evidence that he didn't understand that murdering people was against the law or that he couldn't control himself or anything of the sort?

    If you think you're the prince of God, there's a good chance you're too fucking crazy to control your actions. Of course, I'd need to look further into the case and can't assume that from the information provided.

    Or that he didn't understand he was being executed?

    I'd argue that thinking you'll rise again is evidence that he didn't understand the implications of being executed.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If you think you're the prince of God...

    How about if you just say it? (Leaving aside that this was apparently said after the trial.)

    I'd argue that thinking you'll rise again is evidence that he didn't understand the implications of being executed.

    Again, does this mean we can't execute Christians?

  • KPres||

    What about me? I'm an athiest, but...

    If there are an infinite number of universes in the multiverse, then at some point in some distant timeline, I can be certain that I will live again!

  • prolefeed||

    The issue for me is permitting a monopolistic gang, with roughly the modus operandi of the mafia, the sole and exclusive power to decide who gets to live or die.

    Parsing out whether this particular individual should be so murdered is beside the larger point.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Calling this "murder" is using a loaded term to describe what is happening. This is definitionally in a separate category from murder.

    I am not for the death penalty, but this guy is in no way a good reason for opposition to it. He was not Jared Laughtner; there is good reason to believe that he understood what he was doing at the time he undertook his actions and that he was mentally fit to participate in his trial. There is no doubt that he was the killer. Bottom line, the guy deserved to fry.

  • prolefeed||

    Calling this "murder" is using a loaded term to describe what is happening. This is definitionally in a separate category from murder.

    So, killing someone in cold blood who hasn't harmed you is murder if you are a citizen, but not-murder if you are an agent of a large organized crime gang with decent PR?

    Got it.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I don't think it's murder either way so long as it is just.

    In this case the killing was just. The killer was given opportunity to establish reasonable doubt of his crime in a court of law. He failed to do so, and there is in fact no doubt that he committed the crime he was accused of. I would consider it entirely justified (if not particularly in keeping with rule of law) for a family member of the aggrieved to end his life in retribution.

    And again, I don't see how locking him in a box without his consent for the rest of his life reflects any better on the state than killing him and being done with it.

  • sgs||

    "Got it."

    No, you don't nor are you even really close.

  • thom||

    The guy killed 8 people.

    But the State of Florida was only able to bring back one of them in exchange for this guy's life, right?

    What's that? No? The 8 people are still dead?

    I guess the State of Florida just felt the need to play God when they could have just locked this guy harmlessly in a room somewhere until he died a natural death.

  • Irish||

    ^ This too. I'm generally against the death penalty because of the possibility of killing an innocent person on accident. That also plays into my being against this.

  • some guy||

    Also because it can't be administered fairly. One murderer gets death, while another gets 20 years or less. How's that right?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    One murderer gets life without parole, one gets 20 years or less. How's it right to sentence anyone to life?

  • Zeb||

    There is certainly inconsistency there as well, but at least imprisonment can be undone while death cannot.

  • some guy||

    It's not right, but it's getting closer. At least a life sentence can be commuted/overturned while the person lives. The death penalty is final.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Inconsistency is a different problem than reversibility, though.

    Inconsistency isn't remotely persuasive, at least to me. Reversibility, along prosecutors/cops operating in bad faith, is.

  • KPres||

    "I guess the State of Florida just felt the need to play God when they could have just locked this guy harmlessly in a room somewhere until he died a natural death."

    Ummm...I'd rather die. But it brings up an interesting question. Why is the former wrong but the latter OK? In both cases, the state is taking your liberty.

  • some guy||

    It doesn't matter whether he was insane or not. Killing him was wrong. It didn't make anyone any safer. It gave no measurable recompense to the victims or their heirs. The death penalty is all about vengeance and the law should never be about vengeance.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It doesn't make, say, the guards who have to deal with people who have literally nothing to lose safer?

  • some guy||

    Okay, maybe the guards are safer. But they get paid to take care of these people and we have centuries of experience in mitigating the risks posed by inmates. And there is nothing wrong with a guard killing an inmate in self-defense.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I agree that they knew the job was dangerous when they took it, which should be part of the calculus.

  • some guy||

    I guess if an inmate is so dangerous that no guard is willing to deal with him then some extreme measures can be taken.

  • thom||

    Are prisoners at the really high security levels actually killing prison guards? A brief Google of the issue seems to indicate that prison guards are getting killed in the general population type prison situations, but the supermax/death row kinds of prison seem pretty safe all around.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Are prisoners at the really high security levels actually killing prison guards?

    At a far higher rate than executed prisoners are.

    It may be that the degree to which the guards are safer is sufficiently small that it can be discounted as a factor when devising policy, but it would be pretty hard to argue that dealing with dead prisoners presents an environment safer from attack than dealing with live prisoners even in the most secure interactions.

  • thom||

    At a far higher rate than executed prisoners are.

    I Googled again and couldn't find an example of a Supermax prison guard being killed by a prisoner. Maximum security prisons, yes, there are examples (although many of the articles seem to mention "troubles" at the prison or overcrowding), but Supermax/death row, I'm still looking.

    I'm sure examples exist, but it seems to be extremely rare.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I'm not sure how this turned into a Supermax versus regular max. Are you suggesting that all those sentenced to death should be housed in a Supermax instead? That might solve the safety issue, but it might undercut the cost issue at the same time.

  • thom||

    I'm suggesting that it's possible to hold them somewhere harmlessly until they die. The technology exists.

    Morality aside, my biggest problem with the death penalty is that it's completely unnecessary.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The technology exists to do a lot of things that aren't necessarily good ideas.

    My biggest problem with the death penalty is the scumbags running the system. As a theoretical or moral question, I have zero problem with the idea that executing some people is justified.

  • ||

    Moreover, it's not as if executions take place immediately after sentencing (nor should they); if any of them pose a significant safety risk surely a prisoner on death row does moreso than a lifer that Mohawk dubiously claims "[has] literally nothing to lose"

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If you are already on a life sentence and you can't be executed, the things that can deter you make for a pretty short list.

    Prisoners on death row are treated much differently, so that's not an apples-to-apples comparison. They may be more dangerous in an absolute sense but not a relative sense because of how they are handled.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Killing him was wrong. It didn't make anyone any safer.

    Wanna bet?

    It gave no measurable recompense to the victims or their heirs.

    Life for life. Not a good restitution, but the only one the murderer was able to provide, unfortunately.

    Life in prison without parole *is* a death penalty; merely a slower one. If you believe that the death penalty is inappropriate due to its irreversibility and the possibility of condemning an innocent, that's one thing. I for one can't see how there is a meaningful difference between killing a man and locking him in a room where he will spend the rest of his life; of the two I would say that the latter is far more dehumanizing.

  • some guy||

    Life for life. Not a good restitution, but the only one the murderer was able to provide, unfortunately.

    Death for a death, actually. But the victim's family gains nothing from the second death except the subjective satisfaction of vengeance.

    I for one can't see how there is a meaningful difference between killing a man and locking him in a room where he will spend the rest of his life.

    Perhaps those sentenced to life in prison should get a choice between these two options. I'm just saying that punishments should be driven by public safety first and compensating victims second. Vengeance should never come into it.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Criminal law is all about vengeance. What else did you think it was for?

    It exists to prevent people from righting wrongs done to them on their own.

    The recompense is the punishment of the person that commited that wrong.

  • some guy||

    I realize that is what criminal law is about. But it shouldn't be about that. It should be about public safety.

  • KPres||

    The death penalty is all about vengeance

    So? There's nothing wrong with vengeance.

  • some guy||

    So? There's nothing wrong with vengeance.

    From the individual perspective, no. But from the societal perspective there is. Vengeance is inherently irrational as it has nothing to do with mending damages or protecting individual liberty.

    For example, if someone burns down your house vengeance would be to burn down their house. But doing so is destructive. Everyone loses. Much better to take the arsonist's house and his other assets and use them to compensate you.

    Same goes for if someone breaks your leg. Vengeance would be to break their leg. But then everyone loses again. Much better to keep them healthy and put them to work so they can pay you for damages done, time out of work, etc.

    Vengeance is all about responding to destruction with destruction. This is always bad.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Vengeance is all about responding to destruction with destruction. This is always bad.

    No it isn't. MAD works in small-scale too.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    It doesn't matter whether he was insane or not. Killing him was wrong. It didn't make anyone any safer. It gave no measurable recompense to the victims or their heirs.

    Neither did continued imprisonment, on either count. So he should have been let free?

  • Zeb||

    I'm generally against the death penalty for various reasons. But if it is going to exist, I really don't have a problem with executing crazy people anymore than anyone else. I suppose it depends on what the goal of the penal system is, but if the point is to remove dangerous people from society, then a person who kills people because he is insane is a much greater danger than most people who commit premeditated murder for some particular reason.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    This is pretty much the way I see it, but I could see the argument for not executing people who are so out of reality that they have no grasp of what they were doing when they did it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    It's not enough to just be crazy - you have to be *so* crazy you don't understand that you're being executed, or why you're even being executed. You don't have to accept the justice of your death sentence, and you can have all sorts of grandiose religious views about your divine mission, and believe you'll be resurrected, but it would be highly discriminatory (and insulting to believers) to say that in itself would make you too nuts to be killed. There are plenty of death-row inmates who have sincere religious conversions, and are convinced that Christ (for instance) will raise them from the dead.

    Not that I'm a big fan of the death penalty, and I suppose nibbling around the edges is one way of paving the way for ultimate abolition, but I can't always see the logic of some of these arguments.

  • Drake||

    I've known people who had dangerous dogs (one unfortunately was a good dog but literally went insane from pain because of an infection). They were euthanized pretty much the same way this guy was.

  • Anonymoose||

    What if he WAS the prince of God?

  • prolefeed||

    Then Heaven is liable to be a far nastier place than generally advertised in the glossy brochures.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I think the fact that just about every time an angel appears, the first thing it says is "Be not afraid" would tell us that angels don't appear as the happy, harp-playing beings we've been led to believe by the brochures.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I've never read the whole text, but Isn't the portrayal of the angels in Dogma closer to the Bible's?

    Beings of terrifying and majestic power.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I seem to remember something about Alanis Morrisette being God. Which is ironic.

  • some guy||

    Dontcha think?

  • ||

    In their defense, the Jewish angels usually were about to kill the fuck out of an entire city or a good section of a race of people. So, yeah. You can see why the first thing they'd do is clarify that they aren't here to kill the fuck out of you.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I think the fact that just about every time an angel appears, the first thing it says is "Be not afraid" would tell us that angels don't appear as the happy, harp-playing beings we've been led to believe by the brochures.

    That would be the Catholic notion of angels. Some angels are described as being something straight out of the Cthulhu mythos (which would make "do not be afraid" an appropriate ice-breaker). Even the more human-like angel described in Daniel has a body like chrysolite (green gem), arms and legs like bronze, a face like lightning, and eyes like flaming torches. It also had the "voice of multitudes."

    Probably would be a jarring experience for anyone.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "happy, harp-playing beings we've been led to believe by the brochures.

    "That would be the Catholic notion of angels."

    Oh, you mean like this?

    http://popinainteasy.blogspot......stion.html

  • KPres||

    "I think the fact that just about every time an angel appears, the first thing it says is "Be not afraid" would tell us that angels don't appear as the happy, harp-playing beings we've been led to believe by the brochures."

    I'm pretty sure angels were just aliens from another planet. At least, that's what the History channel told me.

  • Drake||

    Wasn't Satan one of the biggest angels of God?

  • Zeb||

    Lucifer was anyway.

  • DontShootMe||

    in that case, 3 days from now will be very interesting...

  • SugarFree||

    Is there any evidence that a historical John Errol Ferguson even existed in the first place?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    +4 Gospels

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Heh, nice.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The article says - "The 65-year-old, *who had spent 35 years on death row,* was convicted of killing six people in a drug-related massacre in 1977 and of killing two 17-year-olds in 1978." [emphasis added]

    That would mean he's been under a sentence of death since 1978. Think about it - he was sentenced to death in the Carter administration, when discos and bell-bottoms were still a thing, and before the a lot of today's Americans were even born. I mean, I know there are delays in the capital punishment system, but - wow.

    It was probably a race between the executioner and old age, who would get to him first.

  • pan fried wylie||

    incapable of understanding his punishment

    I'm curious how anyone "understands" dying.

    You can "understand" a prison sentence. Because you experience it, and then when you're done, you still have the experience.

    When you die, you're dead. What is left to "understand" anything. The "understanding" of the impending execution doesn't really matter either, because, again, there's no being left to live with the consequence.

    Death sentences have nothing to do with the convict.

  • Rich||

    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.

    What if Ferguson had claimed to be merely, in the vernacular, a child of God?

  • Gladstone||

    So how many libertarians who oppose the death penalty oppose it even for their enemies?

  • ||

    My guess would be all of them. We're not like liberals that way.

  • Gladstone||

  • some guy||

    You linked to a guy who's handle is "sarcasmic". Do you really think you can take anything he says seriously? Even when he says "I'm serious"?

  • some guy||

    Also, sarcasmic might argue that the actions he's advocating are in self-defense.

  • Gladstone||

    And the self-defense claim can and never has been abused ever. And no I'm not referring to George Zimmerman.

  • Zeb||

    Of course it can be abused. So what?

  • Gladstone||

    Well I think describing the killing of a thug cop for beating up a stranger the day (or so) before as "self-defense" is a stretch.

  • Zeb||

    What do you mean by enemies? I don't think I have any enemies.

    And opposing the death penalty doesn't necessarily mean that you don't think that some people deserve to be killed. Just that you don't trust the government to do it.

  • Gladstone||

    Well I'm more referring to some post-Revolutionary purge of statists. Could get quite messy.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    You don't trust the government to do it, or you don't trust the government to refrain from doing it when they shouldn't?

    If the latter...who do you trust? Certainly not the average person, particularly the victim or kith or kin of the victim.

  • Juice||

    The crime happened in the 70s? Damn, why bother executing him now?

  • Mr. Weebles||

    If that dude really is the Prince of God and returns from the dead, the State of Florida is gonna have some explainin' to do.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I fail to see the need for someone to understand their punishment in order to be put to death. He presumably didn't understand the punishment of being locked up for the rest of his life yet there were no issues from Reason with that. It's almost as if they're trying to veil their anti-death penalty agenda.

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