Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday he won't stop the execution of William Morva despite claims that Morva suffers from a delusional disorder and requests for clemency from mental-health advocates, the European Union and a victim's relative.
"Mr. Morva’s petition relies on the diagnosis of a psychiatrist who evaluated him nearly seven years after his trial and conviction. My team and I evaluated that report closely alongside the findings of the experts who testified at trial in order to determine if the totality of their findings might have led the jury or appellate courts to hand down a different sentence," McAuliffe said in a statement.
"I have determined that Mr. Morva was given a fair trial and that the jury heard substantial evidence about his mental health as they prepared to sentence him in accordance with the law of our Commonwealth.
"In short, the record before me does not contain sufficient evidence to warrant the extraordinary step of overturning the decision of a lawfully empaneled jury following a properly conducted trial."
McAuliffe, who says he personally opposes capital punishment, has allowed two other executions to proceed while he has been in office and has commuted the sentence of one inmate.
Morva, 32, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 9 p.m. He was sentenced to death for murdering security guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County sheriff's deputy Eric Sutphin during an escape from custody in 2006.
His lawyers claim he was in the grips of severe mental illness at the time and believed he was acting in self-defense. The jury that sentenced him to death was only told he had a personality disorder.
"William Morva’s execution will not make our community safer. He is not 'the worst of the worst' for whom the death penalty is supposed to be reserved," defense attorney Dawn Davison said. "He is a person with a severe mental illness whose problematic and criminal behaviors were driven by his chronic psychotic disorder."
The courts rejected his appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving McAuliffe as the inmate's last hope.
More than two dozen state lawmakers, two experts from the United Nations and diplomats from Europe asked the Demorcratic governor to spare the life of Morva, who has dual U.S.-Hungarian citizenship.
Even one of Sutphin's daughters urged him to grant clemency, saying she opposes the death penalty on moral and religious groups. The deputy's mother, however, said she wanted the execution to go forward.
Mary Pettitt, the prosecutor in the case, praised the governor's decision.
"I appreciate the Governor's acknowledgement that whether or not you believe in the death penalty it is the law of our Commonwealth and that as government officials we have taken an oath to uphold the laws enacted by the lawfully elected representatives of the people," she said.
There is something very wrong with a legal system that allows states to execute mentally ill prisoners. Where is our Supreme Court?— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) July 6, 2017
But Amnesty International called McAuliffe's decision "appalling."
"Mr. Morva’s deeply flawed case is not an aberration. It is typical of a death penalty system that is broken beyond repair, and the consequences are a matter of life and death," the group said in a statement.
While the attention to Morva's case has focused on the mental health debate, there are other controversies. He will be put to death using a drug, midazolam, that has figured in problematic executions and amid heightened secrecy procedures that critics say are intended to keep any missteps out of public view....Read more