Eleventh Circuit Decision in John Ferguson Matter

WASHINGTON, D.C., 21 May 2013 – We are disappointed by the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, which sets a dangerous new precedent for resolving federal constitutional claims decided by state courts. In the name of deference, the Eleventh Circuit upheld a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that conflicts with a binding decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. As even one of the Eleventh Circuit judges who decided today’s case conceded, the Florida Supreme Court applied a “patently incorrect” legal standard. Whatever deference the Florida Supreme Court may be due, it is not entitled to ignore the law of the land. Established Supreme Court precedent holds that executing someone like Mr. Ferguson — who the Florida state courts all agreed was a 65-year-old paranoid schizophrenic with a documented 50-year history of profound mental illness — would be unconstitutional because he lacks any rational understanding of the reason for his execution or its effect.  We intend to seek further review of today’s decision.

Statement issued by Christopher Handman, lawyer for John Ferguson.

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