An Orange County Superior Court judge accused of murdering his wife with a gun pulled from an ankle holster had obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon out of a desire to protect her and others from harm, documents show.
Judge Jeffrey Ferguson wrote in his renewal application for a concealed carry permit that he needed it because of his job on the bench and as a former prosecutor.
“I wish to renew my CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon permit) for self-protection and protection of my immediate family due to my current, ongoing and past service in Orange County,” wrote Ferguson in his application, signed in March 2021 and obtained by the Southern California News Group.
Ferguson first obtained a permit to carry a gun in 1994, while a deputy district attorney who frequently argued to send parolees back to prison.
His concealed weapon permit was revoked after his Aug. 3 arrest.
Court documents allege that the judge shot his wife, Sheryl Ferguson, through the chest with a .40-caliber Glock that he pulled from his ankle holster during an argument in front of their 22-year-old son the night of his arrest.
Seven hours after the shooting at the couple’s Anaheim Hills home, a blood sample taken from Ferguson showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.06 percent, according to prosecutors. The legal level by which a person is considered too intoxicated to drive is 0.08 percent.
Based on that blood sample, it appears Ferguson violated the conditions of his gun permit by consuming an alcoholic beverage while carrying a weapon. The concealed carry permit allowed Ferguson to carry only the following listed weapons: a Glock .40 caliber, a Glock 9 mm, a Kahr .40 caliber, and a Springfield .40 caliber.
Attorneys representing Ferguson have said the shooting was an accident. The defense attorneys have described an “unintentional discharge” of a firearm and have denied that Ferguson intended to kill his wife.
Ferguson remained free on a $1 million bail as he awaits trial. Despite his status as an elected judge, Ferguson is not expected to preside over any cases, or even his own courtroom, while his criminal case remains active.
Ferguson is no longer assigned to his former courtroom at the Fullerton courthouse or any other Orange County Superior Court facility, court officials said.
All cases that were assigned to him have been transferred to other judges, court officials said, and no new cases are being assigned to him. The county’s presiding judge of the court — or her designees such as supervising judges — have the authority to determine the assignments and case loads for Ferguson and other judges.
Court officials also confirmed that Ferguson no longer has any staff — such as a clerk or a bailiff — assigned to him.
The employment status of other court staffers has not been impacted, officials said. It is not unusual for court staff to perform other jobs when judges they are assigned to are unavailable or unable to perform their duties.
Asked if since his arrest there had been a change in Ferguson’s status as a sitting, active Orange County Superior Court judge, court officials pointed to a section of the California Constitution that states “a judge is disqualified from acting as a judge, without loss of salary,” while there is a pending “indictment or an information charging the judge in the United States with crime punishable as a felony under California or federal law.”
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Ferguson earlier this month was charged in a criminal complaint with murder and has pleaded not guilty.
The murder case against Ferguson has been assigned to judges in Los Angeles County to avoid colleagues in the Orange County Superior Court system having to preside over hearings involving one of their own.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, however, has opted to handle Ferguson’s prosecution, after the California Attorney General’s Office determined that local prosecutors did not have a conflict of interest. Ferguson was a longtime prosecutor with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office before becoming an elected judge in 2015.
Court staffers formerly assigned to Ferguson could also find themselves involved as witnesses in his prosecution According to prosecutors, Ferguson, after allegedly shooting his wife, texted his bailiff and clerk: “I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry.”