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death penalty news----VA., N.C., FLA., TENN.
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-06 12:42:15 UTC
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July 6



VIRGINIA----impending execution

U.N. experts urge McAuliffe to grant clemency for killer set to die by
injection Thursday


2 United Nations human rights experts are appealing to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to
halt Thursday's scheduled execution by injection of William C. Morva.

Lawyers for Morva, 35, are seeking clemency from the governor arguing he
suffers from delusional disorder and at the time of the slayings believed his
life was in danger at the Montgomery County Jail, where he was held on robbery
charges. They argue the jury was given incorrect information about the nature
and severity of his illness.

In August 2006, Morva escaped from a hospital where he was taken for treatment
of minor injuries and shot to death Derrick McFarland, 32, an unarmed security
guard. The following day, he killed Eric Sutphin, 40, a sheriff's deputy who
was searching for the escapee. McFarland was shot in the face; Sutphin in the
back of his head.

In a statement from the U.N. released Wednesday, Agnes Callamard, the special
rapporteur for arbitrary executions, and Dainius Puras, special rapporteur for
mental health, said: "We are deeply concerned about information we have
received indicating that Mr. Morva's original trial did not meet fair trial
safeguards, which include reasonable accommodation in all stages of the
process, and may therefore have breached international standards."

Dawn Davison, one of Morva's lawyers, said in a prepared statement that, "The
U.N. has added its voice to the more than 34,000 people who have pleaded with
Governor McAuliffe to stop this senseless execution.

"William was denied a fair trial because the jurors were not told about his
severe psychotic disorder, and that his crimes were a direct product of his
delusions. Since the trial, William's mental health has continued to
deteriorate because prison doctors have refused to treat him. I am hopeful that
Governor McAuliffe will listen to these calls and commute William's death
sentence," she said.

Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Mary K. Pettitt is urging McAuliffe
to let the sentence be carried out, writing in a letter to the governor that
the fairness of Morva's trial has been reviewed repeatedly in the courts and
upheld.

She wrote that Morva was found to have a variety of personality disorders
including schizotypal personality disorder with narcissistic features. That
information was all available to Morva and his lawyers at the time of his trial
and that it was "absurd" to contend 10 years after the trial that the original
experts were wrong, wrote Pettitt.

The U.N. officials said Wednesday that Morva's condition has caused him to
cease all communication with his legal team hampering their ability to defend
him as his execution approaches.

"We are concerned at Mr. Morva's deteriorating psychosocial condition. The
denial of reasonable accommodation in detention can be considered a form of
discrimination against him because of his mental health condition," they said.

A spokesman for the governor's office could not be immediately reached for
comment Wednesday.

Morva is set to be executed at 9 p.m. Thursday in the death house at the
Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt and if carried out will be the 113th
execution in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment
to resume in 1976, a toll 2nd only to Texas, with 542, among states with the
death penalty.

******************

Daughter of 1 of Morva's victims seeks clemency for her father's killer


The daughter of 1 of 2 men slain by William C. Morva is asking Gov. Terry
McAuliffe to spare his life.

In an email to members of the media on Wednesday, Rachel Sutphin, daughter of
Eric Sutphin, wrote: "I am against the death penalty for religious and moral
reasons. I have fought and will continue to fight for clemency for all death
row inmates until Virginia declares the death penalty unconstitutional.

"I have sent my own letter to the governor showing my support for clemency,"
wrote Sutphin. Dawn Davison, one of Morva's lawyers, verified Rachel Sutphin's
identity as the author.

Unless granted clemency by McAuliffe, Morva, 35, will die by injection Thursday
at the Greensville Correctional Center.

His lawyers are asking that the death sentence be commuted to life without
parole, arguing that he suffers from delusional disorder and at the time of the
slayings believed his life was in danger at the Montgomery County Jail, where
he was held on robbery charges. They argue that the jury was given incorrect
information about the nature and severity of his illness.

In August 2006, Morva escaped from a hospital where he was taken for treatment
of minor injuries and shot to death Derrick McFarland, 32, an unarmed security
guard. The following day, he killed Sutphin, 40, a sheriff's deputy who was
searching for the escapee. McFarland was shot in the face; Sutphin in the back
of his head.

Other surviving relatives of the victim have not responded to requests for
comment.

Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Mary K. Pettitt is urging McAuliffe
to let the sentence be carried out, writing in a letter to the governor that
the fairness of Morva's trial has been reviewed repeatedly in the courts and
upheld.

She wrote that Morva was found to have a variety of personality disorders
including schizotypal personality disorder with narcissistic features. That
information was all available to Morva and his lawyers at the time of his trial
and it is "absurd" to contend 10 years after the trial that the original
experts were wrong, wrote Pettitt.

(source for both: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

***************

Looming Va. execution divides family of slain deputy


The daughter of a sheriff's deputy killed by a man set to be executed in
Virginia said Wednesday that she has urged the state's governor to spare the
man's life, but the slain deputy's mother says she hopes the prisoner is
executed.

William Morva is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday for the 2006
killings of Derrick McFarland, a hospital security guard, and Eric Sutphin, a
sheriff's deputy.

Rachel Sutphin, the deputy's daughter, said she is among those urging
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to halt Morva's execution.

"I am against the death penalty for religious and moral reasons," Sutphin said
in an email to reporters. "I have fought and will continue to fight for
clemency for all death row inmates until Virginia declares the death penalty
unconstitutional. I have sent my own letter to the Governor showing my support
for clemency," she said.

Meanwhile, the deputy's mother says that while she feels sympathy for Morva's
family, she does not want the governor to intervene.

"I have no hatred for this creature who shot him execution-style. I just want
justice for my son," Jeaneen Sutphin told The Roanoke Times in her Virginia
home Wednesday.

Morva was awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in 2005 when he was taken
to the hospital to have an injury treated. There, he attacked a sheriff's
deputy with a metal toilet paper holder, stole the deputy's gun and shot
McFarland, in the face from two feet away before fleeing. McFarland was
unarmed.

A day later, Morva killed Eric Sutphin with a bullet in the back of the head.
The sheriff's deputy had been searching for Morva near Virginia Tech's
Blacksburg campus when he was shot. Morva was later found in a ditch with the
deputy's gun nearby.

Morva's attorneys argue his crimes were the result of a severe mental illness
that makes it impossible for him to distinguish between delusions and reality.

Jurors were told Morva suffered from a personality disorder that resulted in
"odd beliefs." He has since been diagnosed with delusional disorder, a more
severe mental illness akin to schizophrenia, his attorneys say.

Before his escape, Morva told his mother that his health was "dwindling" and
that someone in jail wanted him to die. His attorneys say his escape and the
killings were spurred by Morva's belief that his life in jail was at risk.

Morva's clemency bid has gotten support from national mental health advocates,
several Virginia lawmakers and 2 United Nations human rights experts.

"We are concerned at Mr. Morva's deteriorating psychosocial condition," U.N.
Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Dainius Puras said in a statement
Wednesday. "The denial of reasonable accommodation in detention can be
considered a form of discrimination against him because of his mental health
condition," they said.

Other relatives of Sutphin and McFarland either haven't returned calls or could
not be reached.

A prosecutor in Morva's case has urged McAuliffe not to intervene, saying in a
letter that several experts who examined Morva before his trial agreed he had a
"superior IQ" and suffered from a variety of personality disorders.

"To assert some 10 years later that all 3 of the original experts were wrong is
absurd," Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Mary Pettitt told McAuliffe.
"With enough time and motivation one can always find an expert to say what you
want to hear but that doesn't mean it's true or accurate," she said.

McAuliffe, a Catholic who says he personally opposes the death penalty but has
an obligation to uphold the law as governor, has called off one execution since
taking office. In April, he granted clemency to Ivan Teleguz, saying jurors in
the murder-for-hire case were given false information that may have swayed
sentencing.

Virginia governors have halted executions for mental health concerns before. In
2008, Gov. Tim Kaine commuted a man's death sentence amid concerns about his
competence. A decade earlier, Gov. Jim Gilmore spared a man with schizophrenia.

(source: Associated Press)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty sought in brutal death of Winston-Salem toddler


A Winston-Salem man will face the death penalty in connection with the death of
a 2-year-old boy who prosecutors say had injuries so severe that even if he had
lived, he wouldn't have been able to talk or walk again, a judge ruled
Wednesday.

Charles Thomas Stacks, 31, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of
Jaxson Sonny Swaim, who died from head injuries on Aug. 19, 2015, at Brenner
Children's Hospital. A Rule 24 hearing was held in Forsyth Superior Court to
determine if Forsyth County prosecutors can pursue the death penalty if Stacks
is convicted.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court granted the request.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin said in court that Jaxson Swaim had
bruises and abrasions on every part of his body and had severe head injuries.
Doctors who treated Jaxson determined that he had suffered an "acute and
catastrophic" injury, Martin said.

"If he had lived, he would never walk or talk again," she said.

Martin said Jaxson had bite marks on his body that were later identified as
human and his testicles were swollen. He also had abrasions on his genitals,
Martin said. According to an autopsy report, Jaxson died as a result of
bleeding between the surface of his brain and its outer covering, which was
caused by a blunt force head injury.

Candace Swaim, Jaxson's mother, was friends with Stacks and lived with Stacks
and his wife, Megin, in the Stacks' house in the 5400 block of Grubbs Street.
Other people also lived in the house, including other children, Martin said.

Martin said Candace Swaim was dealing with substance abuse issues and
struggling to find housing. That's why she ended up moving in with the Stacks,
Martin said. Candace Swaim was often not in the house, instead staying at a
nearby motel. On Aug. 16, 2015, she left the house to stay at the motel, Martin
said.

Megin Stacks also left the house for about an hour on Aug. 16, 2015, Martin
said. Megin Stacks is facing a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.
She is accused of telling her four children - ages 12, 11, 7 and 7 - not to
cooperate with police or Forsyth County Child Protective Services while the
agencies were investigating allegations of abuse involving 2-year-old Jaxson.
Megin Stacks' next court date in Forsyth District Court is Sept. 19.

Martin said that on Aug. 16, 2015, Megin Stacks returned to the house and
Jaxson vomited. He was placed in a tub of ice water. Jaxson was taken that day
to Brenner. On Aug. 19, 2015, Jaxson was taken off life support and died.

Martin said prosecutors had found 3 aggravating factors for pursuing the death
penalty - that the alleged murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel;
that the murder was committed during the commission of a specified felony,
felony child abuse; and that Charles Stacks had previously been convicted of a
violent felony in Virginia in December 2008.

Nils Gerber, Stacks' attorney, said he understands that these are just
allegations that prosecutors have to prove in a court of law and that he knows
the purpose of the hearing.

"Mr. Stacks didn't commit this crime and didn't inflict these injuries," he
said.

Gerber filed a motion to set bond. Stacks had been held at the Forsyth County
Jail without bond since he was arrested in 2015. Gerber said that the discovery
in the case is large and Stacks has already been in jail for 2 years. He said
Stacks' parents are willing to have Stacks live with them under whatever
conditions the judge imposes.

Martin objected to setting bond. She said Stacks had no visible source of
income but maintained a house and possessed drugs.

"We believe he is an inappropriate candidate for bond considering he is facing
the death penalty," she said.

Hall denied the motion for bond. Martin said a trial could be held as early as
April 2018.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)






FLORIDA:

Ruling giving some on death row new sentences could lead to lengthy delay----At
least 150 death row inmates expected to get new sentencing hearings


A white supremacist who killed 2 black men in 1987 could be the first Caucasian
executed in Florida for the killing of an African-American.

Gov. Rick Scott has set Aug. 24 for the execution of Mark James Asay, but a
ruling giving some on death row new sentences, but not others, could lead to a
lengthy delay.

Asay is 1 of about 200 death row inmates whose convictions were final before
2002.

Florida's Supreme Court has ruled anyone convicted after 2002, the date of a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling, is entitled to to have a new sentencing hearing and
that the jury must be unanimous. Convictions finalized before 2002 are stuck
with the sentence they got, even though juries could recommend death on a 7-5
vote.

On the day the state House approved the unanimous jury law, Judiciary Chairman
Chris Sprowls called the court's decision unusual.

"I know of no other situation, where there has been a court decision on
constitutionality where there was partial retroactivity. This is the only one I
am aware of," Sprowls said.

Asay's jury recommended death twice, but only by 9-3 votes. Now his attorney is
expected to tell the U.S. Supreme Court it is unfair to execute Asay when
others with 9-3 votes get new sentencing hearings, simply because they were
sentenced later.

Mark Schlakman is a human rights attorney who has pushed for a review of the
the death penalty for almost a decade.

? "Where that line is drawn would not satisfy all parties would be an
understatement. And then it's reasonable to assume that line will be
challenged," Schlakman said.

A 2nd avenue of appeal open to Asay would be a challenge to a new set of lethal
cocktails adopted by the state but never used in Florida.

At least 150 death row inmates are expected to get new sentencing hearings,
which could take years and cost millions. It has been 18 months since Florida
carried out an execution after the courts threw out Florida's sentencing
scheme.

(source: news4jax.com)






TENNESSEE:

Jury Selection In Bobo Case About To Begin As Plea Deal Falls Flat


With the final stage of jury selection Thursday for the Holly Bobo murder case,
those chosen appear headed for trial.

This took place as the defendant, Zach Adams, has rejected plea offers, and
there have been questions about the quality of the evidence against him.

One of the big questions going into trial has been: what's the quality of the
evidence? Is it circumstantial or physical or DNA evidence?

"I do not believe there is any DNA evidence or direct evidence," said
NewsChannel5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

If that's the case, Leonardo said prosecutors will depend primarily on witness
testimony to prove Zach Adams kidnapped, raped, and murdered Holly Bobo.

? So far 5 individuals have been granted immunity or plea deals to take the
stand against Adams, but all will likely have integrity issues.

"It's really going to come down to credibility and what the jury believes,"
said Leonardo.

If convicted, Adams will be facing the death penalty, but questions about the
quality of the evidence against him has likely been one reason Adams has chosen
not to accept a plea deal for life in prison.

For the moment, he's set for trial.

The issue now has come down to selecting the jury in a very high-profile case.

"This is a death penalty case, so they need to get a death penalty qualified
jury, one that is willing to impose the death penalty, not necessarily to agree
that's the outcome, but to entertain that's a possible punishment," said
Leonardo.

Leonardo said he believes a jury will be ready to go by the weekend, and
despite rumors of continuing plea talks, the trial should begin Monday.

(source: WTVF news)


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