STARKE, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed a stay of execution imposed by a lower court blocking the scheduled execution of a South Florida mass killer.
The ruling late Tuesday means the execution of 64-year-old John Errol Ferguson is off until at least early November. He had faced a planned lethal injection earlier Tuesday.
A federal appeals court ruled it must consider whether Ferguson is too mentally ill to face the death penalty. Ferguson is a paranoid schizophrenic who has spent 34 years on death row.
Ferguson was convicted in the fatal, execution-style shootings of six bound and blindfolded people in South Florida in 1977, and of killing a teenage couple in 1978.
Father Ed Rooney of the Diocese of St. Augustine says Ferguson's mental illness is even more reason for him not to be put to death.
"It's like executing a child, depending on his mental state."
Rooney led one of three vigils in the Diocese Tuesday evening, at the hour Ferguson was set to be put to death. He believes there are other punishments that would benefit society as a whole.
"The court system is tied up and just keeping a man in prison for life seems to be a lot cheaper. I hate to put a monetary value on it, but that's the reality."
Rooney says the church supports the families of Ferguson's victims, who have asked the state to move forward with the execution, but he stands firm in his support of changing the law.
"We want to support the families, and the victims of those who are on death row, but the death penalty itself [should not be] a not part of our civilization. You don't stop people killing people, by killing people."