The ABA’s amicus brief in Ferguson v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, filed in support of the prisoner’s request that the court grant certiorari in his case, observes that several courts, including the Florida Supreme Court in this case, have variously misapplied the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedent inPanetti v. Quarterman. In that 2007 decision, the court held that for a prisoner to be competent for execution, he must have a rational understanding of the meaning and purpose of his execution, the ABA notes.
“Holding a person accountable is intended to be an affirmation of personal responsibility. Executing someone who lacks a meaningful understanding of the nature of this awesome punishment and its retributive purpose offends the concept of personal responsibility rather than affirming it,” the brief states, quoting from the amicus brief the ABA previously filed in Panetti.
Thus, the ABA argued in its Panetti brief, when “a death row inmate attributes his pending execution to reasons that only someone suffering from a significant mental disability could espouse — such as a delusion that he is to be executed because of his faith in God — he cannot be said to have the capacity to accept responsibility for his crimes.”
State and federal courts have been unable to apply Panetti in a uniform manner, the ABA’s Fergusonbrief argues, stating, “The Court should grant the petition and now clarify the standard courts should apply in determining whether a capital prisoner is competent to be executed.”
The ABA’s Ferguson amicus brief is available online here.
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