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Ford v. Wainwright

United States Supreme Court
477 U.S. 399 (1986)


Facts

Alvin Ford (defendant) was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. While in prison, Ford’s behavior began to change, and he started experiencing numerous suicidal delusions related to the Ku Klux Klan. Ford also believed that a large group of his friends and family was being held hostage inside the prison. After examination, a psychiatrist concluded that Ford suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia. Shortly afterward, a second doctor met with Ford and concluded that Ford did not understand why he was being executed or recognize the relationship between his death sentence and the homicide of which he had been convicted. Following the procedures set forth under Florida law for determination of competency of a condemned inmate in Fla. Stat. § 922.07 (1985), the governor of Florida empanelled 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 on him. After interviewing Ford at a single meeting, all three psychiatrists produced different diagnoses, but all agreed that Ford understood the nature and effects of the death penalty. Pursuant to the statute, the governor made the final decision, based upon the psychiatrists’ conclusions, and signed a death warrant for Ford’s execution. Ford’s attorneys subsequently brought an action in federal court seeking a writ of habeas corpus.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

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Concurrence (Powell, J.)

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Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

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