death penalty news----VIRGINIA
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-06 19:37:59 UTC
Raw Message
July 6


Va. governor declines to halt execution of killer whose mental illness spurred
clemency bid

William C. Morva is scheduled to be executed Thursday night in Virginia, after
supporters failed to convince Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) that Morva’s mental
illness merited clemency and a life sentence in the 2006 murders of a sheriff’s
deputy and an unarmed hospital security guard.

McAuliffe, who is personally opposed to the death penalty, said he would not
stop the execution because he is convinced Morva received a fair trial. The
governor also said in a statement that the jury was fully informed about
Morva’s mental condition.

“After extensive review and deliberation, I do not find sufficient cause in Mr.
Morva’s petition or case records to justify overturning the will of the jury
that convicted and sentenced him,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

As governor, McAuliffe blocked a scheduled execution in April, but has allowed
two others to proceed.

In seeking clemency, Morva’s attorneys said the jurors who sentenced him to
death were not told about the severity of his mental illness. His case has
become part of a larger national effort to eliminate capital punishment for
people with illnesses like Morva’s delusional disorder.
Attorney Dawn Davison on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol. She is one
of the attorneys representing William Morva. (Julia Rendleman/For The
Washington Post)

Morva, 35, was convicted in 2008 for shooting Cpl. Eric Sutphin and hospital
security guard Derrick McFarland after Morva escaped from custody.

His clemency effort garnered support from local, national and international
advocates pressing to stop states from executing people with severe mental
illnesses. Amnesty International, the ACLU of Virginia and mental health
organizations delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McAuliffe asking him to
commute Morva’s death sentence.

More than two-dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly and three of the
state’s representatives in Congress, all Democrats, also asked McAuliffe to
block the execution. And on Wednesday, one of the daughter’s of the slain
sheriff’s deputy said she too had written to McAuliffe supporting clemency for
the man who killed her father.

Morva is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 9 p.m. at the
Greensville Correctional Center, about 160 miles south of Washington.

Lawmakers in eight states, including Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee, have
introduced bills that would make people with severe mental illness ineligible
for the death penalty. Advocates say capital punishment was not intended for
people who are incapable of distinguishing between delusions and reality.

The legislative proposals address punishment, not guilt or innocence. The
Supreme Court has already said people with intellectual disabilities and
juveniles may not be executed because of their diminished culpability.

After years of appeals in state and federal court, the high court declined to
take up Morva’s case in February.

Elizabeth Morva, his mother, has expressed remorse for her son’s actions and
said that he has not received the psychological treatment he needed.

“If someone had intervened sooner, I truly believe William would never have
killed those two men,” his mother wrote in an affidavit in support of her son.
“But I cannot change the past. I can only say that I am so sorry and ask that
my son please be spared.”

Mary K. Pettitt, the Montgomery County, Va., Commonwealth Attorney, who helped
prosecute Morva, told McAuliffe that the jury had sufficient information about
his mental health and had rendered a fair verdict.

“To assert some 10 years later that all three of the original experts were
wrong is absurd,” Pettitt wrote in a letter to 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 is true or accurate.”

In her statement on Wednesday, Sutphin’s daughter asked for privacy for the
families of the victims and said she was speaking only for herself in
advocating for clemency.

[He's a killer set to die. But his mental illness has set off a new death
penalty debate.]

Years before the shootings, Morva’s friends and family were concerned about his
mental health following his decision to drop out of Blacksburg High School. He
went barefoot in winter, sometimes slept in the woods and told people he had
special powers and was in training to fight in the wild on behalf of Native
Americans. Morva’s daily routine became consumed by unusual habits — eating
large amounts of raw meat and spending hours in the bathroom.

His mental health deteriorated further when he was locked up for a year in jail
awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges. Morva was convinced that someone
at the prison was trying to kill him and intentionally withholding medical
care, he told his mother in a series of phone calls from jail on recorded

In August 2006, a deputy escorted Morva to Montgomery Regional Hospital for
treatment of minor injuries. In the bathroom, Morva knocked the deputy
unconscious, took his gun and then shot McFarland, the unarmed security guard.
The next day, he shot Sutphin, the decorated sheriff’s deputy, who was out
searching for Morva on a wooded trail near the campus of Virginia Tech.

The jury that sentenced Morva to death in 2008 heard from doctors who diagnosed
him with a personality disorder similar to schizophrenia. They noted his odd
behavior and that Morva’s maternal grandmother had been treated for
schizophrenia in the 1950s.

But the doctors told jurors that Morva was not delusional — a determination
that later was refuted by another doctor and Morva’s new team of lawyers.

Morva’s diagnosis of delusional disorder came during the appeals process and
after a more in-depth psychiatric evaluation. Morva’s attorney Dawn Davison of
the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center has said Morva’s delusions
prevented him from understanding the crimes he committed.

Morva has not accepted in-person visits from his lawyers and his mother for
years. He insists they are part of the conspiracy to kill him.

“It is appalling that the jury never learned the full extent of Mr. Morva’s
mental disability,” said James Clark of Amnesty International USA, one of the
groups involved in the clemency campaign.

“As more and more states stop using the death penalty, Governor McAuliffe must
recognize that this cruel punishment should be consigned to the history books

Despite his opposition to capital punishment, McAuliffe has allowed two
executions to go forward. Ricky Gray was the last Virginia inmate to be
executed in January for killing two young girls in a brutal 2006 home invasion.

In April, McAuliffe commuted the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz in a
murder-for-hire case because of what the governor described as a flawed
sentencing process.

(source: Washington Post)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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Rick Halperin
2017-07-07 02:21:40 UTC
Raw Message
July 6


William Morva executed by injection for murders in Southwest Virginia

William C. Morva was executed by injection Thursday night for the capital
murders of an unarmed security guard and a deputy sheriff during an escape in
Montgomery County in 2006.

Morva, 35, a former Chesterfield County resident whose lawyers said suffered
from a chronic psychotic disorder, was pronounced dead at the Greensville
Correctional Center.

The execution occurred without any complications, according to Lisa Kinney, a
spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

At 8:59 p.m., a curtain barring the view of witnesses into the execution
chamber was opened. Morva was lying strapped onto the gurney, with IV lines in
his arms and was breathing deeply.

His face could not be seen. He would raise his head slightly and then drop it
every few seconds. At 9 p.m., Warden Eddie Pearson read the death warrant, then
asked him, "Mr. Morva, do you have any last words?"

"No," Morva replied.

The 1st of 3 drugs was administered. His deep breathing and apparent nodding
continued. At 9:03 p.m., he appeared to be speaking and made a loud sound like
a hic-up. His diaphragm contracted sharply several times. He then grew still.
At 9:05 p.m., an execution team member checked to make sure he was unconscious
before the second and third drugs were administered.

At 9:14 p.m., a physician checked for a heartbeat with a stethoscope. Morva was
pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m.

On Aug. 20, 2006, while in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery and other
charges, Morva was taken to the Montgomery Regional Hospital for treatment of
minor injuries. He assaulted a deputy who was escorting him, knocking him
unconscious and taking his handgun.

Morva encountered Derrick McFarland, 32, a hospital security guard and shot him
in the face. The next day Morva shot Eric Sutphin, 40, a deputy sheriff who was
searching for him, in the back of the head. Morva was convicted of capital
murder, assault and battery of a law enforcement officer and escape by force.

His legal appeals exhausted, Morva's lawyers filed a clemency petition with
Gov. Terry McAuliffe asking that the death sentence be commuted to life. They
argued that the jury did not know of his serious mental illness, diagnosed by a
forensic psychiatrist years after his trial.

In a statement released at 2:17 p.m. Gov. Terry McAuliffe turned down Morva's
petition and sided with state officials who said Morva's pre-trial diagnoses by
experts were valid and that the jury considered them and nevertheless sentenced
Morva to death.

"These experts thoroughly evaluated Mr. Morva and testified to the jury that,
while he may have personality disorders, he did not suffer from any condition
that would have prevented him from committing these acts consciously and fully
understanding their consequences," said the governor.

He added, “We also consulted with the Department of Corrections, whose mental
health staff have monitored him weekly and assessed him quarterly for the past
nine years and have never reported any evidence of delusional disorder or
severe mental illness."

Morva's clemency petition divided at least one of the victims' families -- a
daughter of Sutphin asking McAuliffe to grant clemency, while Sutphin's mother
hoped to see the death penalty carried out for the sake of justice.

On Wednesday, 2 experts with the United Nations urged McAuliffe not to execute
Morva. His lawyers said Thursday that more than 34,000 people signed petitions
backing clemency and 28 state legislators and 3 members of Congress also
supported clemency.

Bill Farrar, with the ACLU of Virginia, said the organization was saddened by
McAuliffe's decision "to allow the execution of William Morva, a mentally ill
man, despite strong appeals for clemency from state, national and international
mental health and human rights advocates.

"This is more evidence that the death penalty must be repealed in Virginia, and
that until that happens the layers of secrecy surrounding it must be peeled
back," he said.

Before Morva's execution, a group of 10 people protesting the death penalty
gathered outside the prison, including the Rev. Hilary Streever. She said she
knew Morva when she attended Virginia Tech and that he was odd, but kind. They
met in a coffee shop a couple years before his armed robbery.

"He was a little strange and from there he grew stranger," said Streever, who
now lives in Richmond.

"The Episcopal Church is against the death penalty," she said. "I've always
been against it religiously, but this is my first personal connection to it."

The Rev. Lauren Ramseur, a member of the board for the Virginians Against the
Death Penalty, said she's led one other vigil for an execution. "We are here to
witness for life and hope," she said.

"I'm opposed to the death penalty in any case," Ramseur said. "I think it is
particularly wrong to murder someone who's sick because he acted out of his
mental illness and we should have compassion."

Donald Triplett III drove six hours from North Carolina to stand with the
candlelight vigil in protest of the execution. He had also protested Arkansas'
use of the death penalty in April on the steps of the governor's mansion and
participated in a vigil in Washington, D.C.

He said he didn't expect to make the drive, believing McAuliffe would grant

"He made some statement that he respects the rule of law, but respect for the
rule of law is one thing. Capital punishment is murder," he said.

Executions are carried out in "L-Unit," or the death house, at the Greensville
Correctional Center.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said Thursday that family
members of the victims had expressed an interest in attending the execution.
Such witnesses view the proceedings from a separate area and not with official
citizen witnesses and media representatives.

Morva was set to meet with clergy on Thursday, but not family.

Far less of Morva’s execution was to be visible to witnesses for Morva's
execution than prior ones.

In February, the Department of Corrections adopted a new policy whereby a
curtain blocking the view of the death chamber from a glassed-in witness area
will not be opened until the IV lines are in place and the execution is ready
to be carried out.

In prior executions citizen and media witnesses could watch the inmate led into
the chamber and strapped onto the gurney or into the electric chair. Only the
placing of the IV lines was blocked from view by a drawn curtain.

Problems were encountered when placing the IV lines in Ricky Javon Gray on Jan.
18, delaying his execution for an inordinate length of time. The department
said the changes were made in part to reduce stress on the staff who carry out
the executions and bring Virginia’s procedure in line with those of other

Critics, including the ACLU of Virginia, have decried the increased secrecy
that also prevents making public the pharmacy concocting drugs needed to carry
out a lethal injection.

Virginia uses a 3-drug procedure. The 1st one is intended to render the inmate
unconscious, the 2nd to cause paralysis, and the 3rd stops the heart. 2 of the
drugs, midazolam and potassium chloride, were made by a licensed compounding
pharmacy in Virginia.

Morva becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia
and the 113th person executed in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed
capital punishment to resume in 1976 -- the 2nd most among states that have the
death penalty. Virginia resumed executions in 1982.

Morva becomes the 14th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA
and the 1456th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch & Rick Halperin)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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