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Mental illness appeal fails to stop Fla. execution

STARKE, Fla. — A man convicted of murdering eight people in Miami-Dade County in the late 1970s was executed Monday night at the Florida State Prison, despite his lawyers’ pleas that he was too mentally ill to be put to death.

John Errol Ferguson, 65, died at 6:17 p.m., following a lethal injection.

The execution came less than two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a final request for a stay.

Before the execution, Ferguson made a brief statement before 25 witnesses, including family members of the victims.

“I just want everyone to know that I am the prince of God and will rise again,” he said calmly.

At about 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 execution took 16 minutes.

About three dozen people protested across the street from the prison.

The issue of Ferguson’s mental stability was a current that ran through his life, and his execution came after months of court appeals. Ferguson’s lawyers said their client had a long history of mental illness. The attorneys appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that Ferguson lacked “rational understanding” that he will be executed and that killing him would “cruel and unusual punishment,” violating the Eighth Amendment.

Ferguson and two others were convicted of murdering six people in 1977 during a robbery at a Carol City house used by marijuana dealers. Ferguson dressed as a utility worker to gain access and let his accomplices inside. Most of the victims were friends who happened to drop by the house while Ferguson and the other men were there. The victims were blindfolded and bound, and the encounter turned violent after a mask fell off one of Ferguson’s gang members and his face was spotted by a victim.

The decision was made to kill all eight people in the house. Two survived. At the time, it was the worst mass slaying ever in Miami-Dade County.

Ferguson also was convicted of the 1978 murder of a 17-year-old couple, Brian Glenfeldt and Belinda Worley, from Hialeah. They were shot as Ferguson, dressed as a police officer, tried to rob them while they were parked at a lovers’ lane. Worley was raped.

The randomness of the crime and the youth of the two victims stunned many in Miami. Ferguson confessed to killing “the two kids” after he was arrested in April 1978 for the earlier killings, court records show.

Worley’s mother, Edna Worley, waited for decades for Ferguson’s execution but died last year.

Ferguson was sentenced to die in both cases; he unsuccessfully used the insanity defense in the trial over the teenagers’ murders.

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