November 4, 2013
“I am the prince of God and I will rise again.”
These were the last words spoken by John Ferguson, a profoundly mentally ill man with a 40-year history of paranoid schizophrenia. The State of Florida executed him earlier this year despite the fact that he had no rational understanding about what was happening to him or why he was being punished.
John was one of many hundreds of seriously mentally ill prisoners on death row whose illnesses make them especially vulnerable. The mentally impaired also face special dangers. Warren Hill, whose IQ is just 70 and whose diagnosis of mental retardation is undisputed, faces an execution date in Georgia because the State refuses to exempt him under its harsh death penalty statute.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded and the insane. So how is it that men like John and Warren face execution? The law should protect them. But laws are not self-fulfilling. Laws need lawyers to make them meaningful.
What happens when there is no lawyer? Hundreds of death row prisoners without counsel already know the answer: there is no justice at all.
The Death Penalty Representation Project works with volunteer lawyers who support the rule of law. We believe that the constitutional promises of due process, fairness, and justice are not just for those with power and money. We believe that our laws should protect the most vulnerable and helpless among us, men like John Ferguson and Warren Hill. And we believe that we can make a difference—because we already have. With your help, the Project has found hundreds of courageous lawyers to represent death-sentenced prisoners, reformed capital counsel systems, and provided essential training and support to lawyers and judges. Together, almost 60 death-sentenced prisoners have been saved and given a new chance for life.
Please consider making a special year-end financial gift to support the Project. Your contributions allow us to continue our important work in these difficult economic times. We use every dollar of your donation on substantive, life-saving efforts to reach the men and women who need our help. Your generous donation will be gratefully received.
Thank you from all of us at the Project for your continued support for our work.
Robin M. Maher