A judge in Florida has ruled that John Ferguson, who has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic by various mental health experts over the last four decades, can be put to death by lethal injection Thursday for murders he committed in the 70s. Though this would seem to violate the Constitutional Amendment barring the death penalty for crimes committed by those mentally incapable of grasping reality, incredibly Judge David Glant has ruled that in this particular case the criminal’s schizophrenic delusion about the afterlife and his role on Earth is basically the same as the worldview held by mainstream Christians, and implied it should be judged by the same standards.
The Guardian notes Ferguson was first diagnosed with mental instability ih the 60s and was deemed dangerous by a psychiatrist in 1975. Two years later he committed his first murder, and was sentenced to death in 1978.
While his condition has been confirmed by 30 doctors over the years and prevented him from receiving the death penalty so far, in a recent review of his case Judge Glant found that his understanding of life and death and the ramifications of his murders are not so divorced from the most people’s sense of reality as to excuse him from the death penalty.
Ferguson he believes he is the “Prince of God” and will be resurrected at the right-hand of Jesus in the afterlife. The Guardian writes:
Astoundingly, the judge goes on to say that the prisoner’s “grandiose delusion” of himself as being akin to Jesus at the point of his resurrection is in fact “relatively normal Christian belief”. He writes: “There is no evidence that Ferguson’s belief as to his role in the world and what may happen to him in the afterlife is so significantly different from beliefs other Christians may hold so as to consider it a sign of insanity.”
The judge also acknowledges Ferguson’s history of mental health, but seems to say while he believes he acted on the side of good rather than evil, his conception of the moral structure of the universe is the same as mainstream Christiandom. “There is no evidence that his mental illness interferes, in any way, with his ‘rational understanding’ of the fact of his pending execution and the reason for it,” says Judge Glant.
Obviously Ferguson’s legal team is appealing the ruling. “This is a guy with long-standing mental health issues that stretch over four decades, with 30 different doctors having diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic, including Florida state and court-appointed doctors. And yet he is sane enough to be executed?” said attorney Ben Lewis.
Pending final appeal, Ferguson will be put to death on Thursday afternoon.