Virginia execution to go forward despite bids for clemency by mental health advocates

Morva's lawyers say that at the time of the murders, their client thought he was acting in self-defense and that when he was sentenced, the jury had only heard that he had a personality disorder.
By Cliff Mooneyham | Oct 10, 2017
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has refused to block the execution of William Morva, a now 32-year-old man who mental health advocates say suffers from a delusional disorder. Requests for clemency also came from the European Union and one of the victim's relatives.

Morva was sentenced to die for killing security guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County sheriff's deputy Eric Sutphin during a 2006 escape from custody, according to NBC News. He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 9 p.m. Thursday.

"William Morva's execution will not make our community safer," said defense lawyer Dawn Davison. "He is not 'the worst of the worst' for whom the death penalty is supposed to be reserved. He is a person with a severe mental illness whose problematic and criminal behaviors were driven by his chronic psychotic disorder."

Morva's lawyers say that at the time of the murders, their client thought he was acting in self-defense and that when he was sentenced, the jury had only heard that he had a personality disorder.

Although Gov. McCauliffe is personally against the death penalty, he said that after reviewing Morse's case, he did not see enough evidence "to warrant the extraordinary step of overturning the decision of a lawfully empaneled jury following a properly conducted trial."

The prosecutor, Mary Pettitt, welcomed Gov. McCauliffe's decision.

"I appreciate the Governor's acknowledgment 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," Pettitt said.

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