Florida has set an August 5 execution date for John Ferguson, a death row inmate who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than four decades. As far back as 1965, Ferguson was found to experience visual hallucinations. He was sent to mental institutions and was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, delusional, and aggressive. In 1975, a mental health doctor described Ferguson as “dangerous and cannot be released under any circumstances.” Nevertheless, he was released less than a year later. Ferguson believes he is the “Prince of God” and is being executed so can save the world. Ferguson’s attorneys recently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asserting that Florida courts have applied the wrong standard for mental competency, ignoring the current interpretation of this issue by the High Court, which requires that an inmate have a rational understanding of why he is being executed. An earlier editorial in the Tampa Bay Times opposing Ferguson’s execution, agreed, “Florida is embracing an interpretation of competency for execution so pinched that it would virtually extinguish limits on executing the severely mentally ill. The state says Ferguson is aware that he is being put to death and that he committed murder, and is therefore competent to be executed.”
(“Scott Sets New Date For Executing Mass Killer,” Associated Press, July 24, 2013; Editorial Board, “State shouldn’t execute severely mentally ill killer,” Tampa Bay Times, November 2012; Read Ferguson’s petition to U.S. Supreme Court). See American Bar Association’s amicus brief on behalf of Ferguson.
Barring a stay of execution, Douglas Feldman is scheduled to die in nine days. His petition for a state writ of habeas corpus based on ineffective assistance of counsel has gone nowhere. He claims his trial attorney failed to investigate the role his alleged bipolar disorder played in the murders. Now he’s running out of road, but Feldman is in no hurry to become the 503rd Texas inmate to meet the end. So, he filed his own petition with a federal district court last week.
It’s handwritten and a little messy, but Feldman is no dummy. His petition is also lucid and articulate. He was, after all, once a financial analyst. Then, in 1998, he was out for a night ride on his Harley when he claimed an 18-wheeler nearly ran him off the road. He gunned his motorcycle alongside the truck and emptied his clip into the cab, killing Robert Everett, the driver.
On his way home, he pulled off at an Exxon fueling station and shot tanker driver Nicholas Velasquez in the back. A week later, he shot Antonio Vega outside of a Jack-in-the-Box because he was standing next to a big rig. A jury sentenced him to die. Last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to vacate his death sentence. Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to Gawker, pondering the sociological inequities he’d identified on death row and requesting “LSD Hydrate” to help him cope with some heavy existential anxiety.
Now, he’s taking a run at the federal district court himself and claiming some abhorrent treatment in the Polunsky Unit. Among other things, he says he’s had his head shaved, been subject to round-the-clock searches, been forced to sleep naked on the bare concrete floor and been denied toilet paper. All of this, he claims, without having been “convicted of any disciplinary offense.”
But Unfair Park reached out to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and was just stunned to discover that Feldman isn’t exactly Nelson Mandela. About a month ago, he granted an interview to a reporter. Before it could begin, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark says, the inmate tried to tear a telephone from the wall.
Feldman, Clark says, has a lengthy disciplinary history. He’s been caught with a razor, which officers believed could be used as a weapon. He has filled bottles in his cell with feces and urine. He has “attempted to assault a corrections officer by slipping out of his cuffs.”
Clark couldn’t comment on Feldman’s pending litigation.
ByOn July 17, 2013
Texas has passed 500 executions in the modern era since the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty was constitutional. Texas conducted its first execution after the ruling in 1982.
To express your opposition to any execution, you can contact Governor Rick Perry’s office at 512 463 2000. If you call after business hours, you can leave a voice mail message. During business hours, someone should answer the phone. You can also send a message using a form on Perry’s official website.
503) Douglas Feldman, July 31, 2013
504) Robert Garza, September 19, 2013 (Law of Parties case)
505) Arturo Diaz, September 26, 2013
506) Michael Yowell, October 9, 2013
507) Rigoberto Avila Jr, January 15, 2014
July 20, 2013
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s second execution in almost two years is scheduled for Thursday at Holman Prison in Atmore.
Court records show that 30-year-old Andrew Lackey asked the state to set his execution date, and has not taken action to stop it.
Lackey is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Prison in Atmore for the beating and shooting death of 80-year-old Charles Newman during a 2005 Halloween night robbery at Newnan’s home in Limestone County. Lackey is to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Lackey would be the first inmate executed in Alabama since Christopher T. Johnson of Escambia County received a lethal injection Oct. 20, 2011. He was the sixth inmate executed in 2011.
The state’s executions have been slowed partly because of a legal dispute over the drugs used in executions.
Lackey’s execution was set after he wrote a letter to the Alabama Supreme Court saying that he had “an odd request.”
“Please set me an execution date. I do not wish to pursue any further appeals for my death sentence,” Lackey said in the letter to the justices, according to court records. Lackey said he would not file any further appeals.
Court records show Lackey has taken no action to stop the execution.
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Richard Anderson, Lackey says, “I do not know what else I can do. Will you please help me get an execution date.”
Court records show that Newman made an emergency phone call to the Athens Police Department on Halloween night 2005 in which he could be heard saying, “Don’t do that,” ”Leave me alone” and “What do you want.”
The police operator then heard the apparent assailant repeatedly ask, “Where’s the vault?” according to the records.
Bryan Stevenson, an attorney with the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, said both the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the trial court have ruled that the state can go ahead with Lackey’s execution.
Stevenson said he and other attorneys opposed to Lackey being executed and “have argued that he is mentally ill.”
“Our point is that he needs to be examined,” Stevenson said.
July 16, 2013
John Manuel Quintanilla received lethal injection for gunning down 60-year-old Victor Billings at a game room in Victoria, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. The 2002 slaying came just a few months after Quintanilla had been released from prison after serving a sentence for several burglary convictions.
Asked to make a final statement before his execution, Quintanilla told his wife he loved her.
“Thank you for all the years of happiness,” he said.
He never acknowledged his victim’s friends or relatives, including two daughters, who watched through a window.
As the lethal drug began taking effect, he snored about a half dozen times, then stopped breathing. At 7:32 p.m. CDT — 15 minutes after being given the drug — he was pronounced dead.
Quintanilla’s wife, a German national who married him by proxy while he was in prison, watched through an adjacent window and sobbed.
Quintanilla, 36, became the ninth Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the 501st since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. His was the first of two executions set for this week; the other is planned for Thursday.
Quintanilla’s punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court refused two last-day appeals.
His lawyers contended his confession was coerced by authorities threatening to also charge one of his sisters and that the statement improperly was allowed into evidence at his trial in 2004. The lawyers obtained affidavits from two jurors who said the confession was a key to their decision to convict him.
“It is clear that Quintanilla would not have been convicted of capital murder if his confession had not been admitted — a fact confirmed by two of his jurors,” appeals lawyer David Dow told the high court.
The appeal also argued Quintanilla had deficient legal help during his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals, and that his case would give justices the opportunity to define filing rules in light of recent death penalty rulings from the court.
The Texas attorney general’s office said the appeal was without merit and improperly filed, and that the juror affidavits also were improper.
“There wasn’t any coercion whatsoever,” Dexter Eaves, the former Victoria County district attorney who was lead prosecutor at the trial, recalled last week. He also said that while the robbers, who fled with about $2,000, were masked, witnesses were able to “describe very clearly who the triggerman was.”
Court records show Billings, a retired chief deputy from nearby Edna in adjacent Jackson County, was at the game center with his wife on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002 when the gunmen came in through a back door. Billings approached one of them and grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle “so no one else was going to be hurt and paid for it dearly,” Eaves said.
He said Billings was shot three times, the last one fired while he was on his knees.
“A very cold killing,” Eaves said.
During questioning by detectives for an unrelated robbery some two months later, Quintanilla made references to the still unsolved Billings case, then led authorities to a canal where divers recovered items used in the holdup.
“They had the mask, the guns and his statements saying who did what,” Jim Beeler, Quintanilla’s lead trial lawyer, said. “He told them everything.”
Beeler said the trial judge overruled his objections and ruled the statements proper and admissible into evidence. He also said Quintanilla signed affidavits ordering that his defense team present no mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial, where jurors deciding his sentence could have considered he had virtually no parental supervision while growing up.
“You want to argue your case, completely and totally,” Beeler said. “In that situation, we’re not being allowed to present our case, based on our client.
“It’s extremely frustrating.”
Prosecutors bolstered their case for Quintanilla’s future dangerousness by presenting evidence he attacked a jailer with a homemade weapon while awaiting trial.
“He did not do himself any favors,” Eaves said.
Quintanilla’s accomplice, Jeffrey Bibb, 33, is serving 60 years for murder and 50 years for aggravated robbery.
On Thursday, another Texas inmate is set for lethal injection. Vaughn Ross, 41, is to be executed for a double slaying in Lubbock in 2001.
Despite unanimous agreement from 7 doctors that Warren Hill is intellectually disabled and opposition from the victims family and original trial jurors, Georgia is still planning to kill Warren Hill this Monday.
To learn more about this case, read or print AIUSA’s full Urgent Action sheet: PDF format
- Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill (update) (claimyourinnocence.wordpress.com)