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Ford v. Wainwright

Significance, Ruling On Insanity, Cruel And Unusual Punishment?, Deciding On Insanity, Implications Of The Forddecision


Alvin Bernard Ford


Louie L. Wainwright, Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

Appellant's Claim

That because Alvin Ford had become insane awaiting execution on death row, according to the Eighth Amendment, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute him; and that the way that Ford's sanity had been determined under Florida state law was a violation of Ford's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Joy B. Shearer, Assistant Attorney General of Florida

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Richard H. Burr III

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall (writing for the Court), Lewis F. Powell, Jr., John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting

Warren E. Burger, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Byron R. White


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

26 June 1986


That executing a person who had become insane while awaiting execution was indeed a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that Florida state statutes did not offer due process to determine prisoners' sanity.

Related Cases

  • Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459 (1947).
  • Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976).
  • Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976).
  • Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277 (1983).
  • Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988).
  • Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989).


West's Encyclopedia of American Law. St. Paul, MN: West Group, 1998.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988