Ford V. Wainwright

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Ford V. Wainwright

Ford V. Wainwright


Ford v. Wainwright, {{ussc|477|399|1986}}, was the case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the common law rule that the insane cannot be executed; therefore the petitioner is entitled to a competency evaluation and to an evidentiary hearing in court on the question of his competency to be executed.

Facts and Procedural History

In 1974 Ford was convicted of murder in a Florida state court and sentenced to death. In early 1982 he began to show gradual changes in behavior, indicating mental disorder. Counsel for Ford invoked the procedures of Florida law governing the determination of a condemned prisoner's competency. According to the procedures, the Governor of Florida appointed a panel of three psychiatrists to evaluate whether Ford had "the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and the reasons why it was imposed upon him." The psychiatrists disagreed on the exact diagnosis but agreed on the fact of Ford's sanity. The Governor without explanation or statement signed a death warrant for the execution. Ford's attorneys unsuccessfully sought a hearing in state court for determination of his competency and then filed a habeas corpus petition. Federal district and appellate courts denied relief.


Alvin Bernard Ford was convicted of murder in 1974 and sentenced to death in the state of Florida. In 1982, while on death row, Ford's mental health diminished to a point resembling paranoid schizophrenia: Ford began referring to himself as Pope John Paul III, and reported such accomplishments as thwarting a vast Ku Klux Klan conspiracy to bury dead prisoners inside the prison walls; foiling an attempt by prison guards to torture his female relatives inside the prison; and personally appointing nine new justices to the Florida Supreme Court. Ford also claimed he was "free to go whenever wanted", because Ford theorized that anyone who executed him would in turn be executed. A panel of three psychiatrists was eventually called to examine Ford's behavior, and concluded that while Ford suffered from psychosis and various mental disorders, that Ford was still capable of understanding the nature of the death penalty and the effect that such a penalty would have on him. The governor of Florida, Bob Graham, acted without further comment on the panel's findings, but in accord with a Florida Statute, and signed a death warrant for Ford in 1984. Ford sued the Secretary of the Florida Department ...
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