Convicted mass murderer and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic John Errol Ferguson was granted a last minute emergency stay by a federal appeals court on the evening of October 23rd, only hours before his scheduled execution by lethal injection in Florida’s death chamber was to take place. Following numerous appeals and denials by various courts, the stay represents a victory for both Ferguson and death penalty opponents, who argue the inmate is too mentally ill to fully comprehend right from wrong. Convinced he is the “Prince of God,” Mr. Ferguson has suffered from extreme hallucinations, paranoid ideations and delusions since he was first assessed by a mental health professional in 1965, who at the time had recommended permanent state hospitalization. While good news for Ferguson’s supporters and criminal defense team, those in favor of executing the confessed killer of at least eight have responded with dismay, noting the appeals process in this case has continued for 34 years since his original conviction. The anonymous, brutal nature of Ferguson’s crimes shocked Florida when they occurred. His trial was followed by many in the state as Ferguson revealed he had selected a young couple stopped at a “lover’s lane” at random, while dressed as a police officer. Approaching their car, he shot the driver, Brian Glenfeldt, in the head. When Glenfeldt’s companion, 17 year old Belinda Worley, tried to escape, Ferguson shot her as well. The case continues, and emotions run high for both sides.
Two juveniles are accused of Lehigh Acres weapons offenses and homicide, following the slaying a mother and teenage son earlier this month.
Our Lehigh Acres criminal defense attorneys understand that the two teens accused in the slayings are also believed to have sold the suspected murder weapon at a party after the killings.
First thing to note: We don’t have all the facts of this case, and there is a lot to be sorted out before this is fully resolved by the court – probably in at least another year or so.
What we can say is that if that allegation is true – that these two did in fact commit this violent crime in Lehigh Acres and turned around and sold the weapon at a party – it would show an incredible lack of foresight that would prompt us to question not only their maturity level but their mental competency.
This is the type of crime for which we would want to bring on mental health experts to testify about the boys’ state of mind, as well as their IQ levels, history of past abuse and any other details that may be relevant to their defense.
Here’s what The News-Press is so far reporting:
The two, teenage suspects – age 16 and 17 – are from North Fort Myers. They are each facing two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.
The two are believed to have been friends with the teenage victim, with whom they attended Riverdale High School.
Detectives said the two went to the alleged victims’ home with the intent of robbing and killing their teenage friend. They rep0rtedly went through with this plan, fatally shooting their 16-year-old classmate. They then found their classmate’s mother in her room, and fatally shot her as well.
Investigators say the pair left the residence with a safe, as well as $400 in cash and two guns.
The 16-year-old suspect is believed to have been the mastermind of the plot, while the 17-year-old was recruited as a driver, for which he was paid $150.
Police believe the two then sold the murder weapon at a party days later.
When it comes to defenses for homicide, under FL statute 782.04, there are definitely ways that a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue that the act was justifiable or in self-defense or unintentional. None of those may apply here, though we’re still waiting on all the facts.
In addition to fully exploring the mental competency of a client, an experienced Lehigh Acres juvenile defense attorney can act as an advocate for their client in negotiating a lesser charge or sentence. This is typically done when the evidence against a defendant is pretty overwhelming.
In this case, the driver in particular may be granted some leeway if he is willing to testify against his co-defendant. This is not always an option, but sometimes it can be.
In cases involving adults, when a homicide is committed in the commission of another felony – in this case, home invasion robbery – penalties are increased, and the crime can be considered a capital felony, meaning it’s punishable by death.
These two suspects will likely be tried as adults, but because they are under the age of 18, they are facing the possibility of life in prison.
If you have been arrested for a crime in Florida, the Lehigh Acres criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law can build an effective defense on your behalf. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a confidential consultation at (800) 687-2252.
The fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in northern Florida last month has sparked national outrage, after the gunman, a neighborhood watch captain, avoided criminal charges by local law enforcement.
The incident also has Floridians questioning the Stand-Your-Ground law. As our Fort Myers defense attorneys understand it, the police chief in Fort Myers is advising individuals not to take potentially dangerous situations into their own hands. Not heeding this advice could land you in handcuffs, charged with a violent crime in Fort Myers.
Here are the facts of the case, as reported by The Associated Press:
A 17-year-old was walking home from the store, bag of candy in pocket, when he was reportedly attacked by a 28-year-old armed man. The older man, a neighborhood watch captain, had called 911, saying the teen looked suspicious. He told the operator he was following the “suspect,” which the operator told him was not necessary. The watch captain initially told police the teen attacked him, though that has been disputed by a number of witnesses. The teen died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. As it turned out, the teen was unarmed and, according to various accounts, was simply returning home from the store.
The watch captain told police he had acted in self-defense. Citing the Stand-Your-Ground law, local police declined to file charges against the shooter.
That decision has sparked outrage within the black community. The teen was black. The shooter is white Hispanic.
Florida is one of 21 states that has a “Stand-Your-Ground” law. Essentially, it offers individuals the discretion to use potentially deadly force in a fight, rather than run away. In many cases, police will charge an individual in a fatal shooting, and let the courts work it out. In this case, however, police say they are confident they did the right thing in not charging the neighborhood watch captain, who had a permit to legally carry the 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
Now, however, the outrage the case has sparked has led to state and federal investigations that could result in the shooter being charged with a violent crime.
The Stand-Your-Ground law was enacted in 2005. Prior to that, there had been about 13 homicides in the state each year that were determined to be justified. After the law’s passage, between 2006 and 2010, the average rose to about 36 justified killings annually.
Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker, in speaking with local media and neighborhood watch groups, said that he wants to make sure a similar situation doesn’t happen here. In a situation where someone may feel threatened, he said, the best course of action is to simply call police and allow them to handle it.
“You don’t want to take things into your own hands because you really don’t know all the pieces and parts to it,” he told NBC-2.
However, if you do end up in a situation where you have shot someone in self defense, your first phone call needs to be to an experienced Fort Myers violent crimes attorney.
If you have been arrested for a crime in Florida, the Fort Myers criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law can build an effective defense on your behalf. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a confidential consultation at (800) 687-2252.