Magazine article Mother Jones

Last Rights

Magazine article Mother Jones

Last Rights

Article excerpt

Believingyou're God doesn't make you too crazy to be executed.

IN 2007, THE SUPREME COURT ruled that mentally ill convicts can be executed so long asthey have a "rational understanding" of their sentence and the reason for it. But state authorities have interpreted that language very broadly: Take John Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic who killed eight people after being released from a Florida mental hospital in 1976. He believed he'd been condemned to "prevent him from ascending to his rightful throne as the Prince of Cod"-a perch from which he would save the United States from communism. This past May, a federal appeals court declined to commute his sentence, with one judge writing that Ferguson's belief in an afterlife didn't make him insane: "If it did mean that, most Americans would be mentally incompetent to be executed." The Supreme Court passed on reviewingthe case, and Ferguson was executed in August. His last words: "I am the Prince of Cod and I will rise again." Other death-row inmates with delusions of divinity:

Michael Owen Perry

Perry, who murdered five family members, believed that he was a god and that Crease star Olivia Newton-John was a goddess. In 1985, he was sentenced to death in Louisiana before another court ruled that the state could not forcibly medicate him simply to make him rational enough for execution. Perry is still on death row.

Emanuel Kemp Jr.

Sentenced to be executed in Texas in 1999, Kemp believed he was Cod, and therefore above punishment for a 1987 murder. …

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