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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Virginia: William Morva attorneys ask governor to stop execution

William Charles Morva's attorneys are asking that the convicted murderer's execution - scheduled for July 6 - be halted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In a petition filed Tuesday, the Virginia Capital Representation Center says that Morva has mental illness that was never adequately taken into account during his 2008 trial, and that life imprisonment would be a more appropriate punishment for him. The attorneys group also asked that McAuliffe order mental health care for Morva.

"For more than a decade, William Morva has suffered from a serious psychotic disorder similar to schizophrenia," a statement from the attorney group said.

"Mr. Morva has never received treatment for his mental illness, although administration of anti-psychotic medications has proven successful in controlling symptoms of people similarly affected."

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy wrote in an email Tuesday that the governor, who is presently in Europe on a trade mission set to run through June 30, and a team will review the petition.

"We'll make an announcement when that review is complete," Coy wrote.

The attorneys' statement said Morva believes local law enforcement and the administration of former President George Bush conspired to harass and unfairly arrest him, that he had a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition that required him to spend hours on the toilet every day and "adhere to a diet of raw meat, berries, and pinecones."

The statement said Morva felt called "to lead indigenous tribes on an unexplained quest" and that "remote tribes would recognize his leadership status from his facial features."

In 2006, Morva, then a 24-year-old Blacksburg resident, was jailed and awaiting trial on theft-related charges when he complained of falling from his bunk and was taken to what was then called Montgomery Regional Hospital.

There, Morva knocked out a sheriff's deputy who was guarding him, took his gun and killed hospital security officer Derrick McFarland. The next day Morva killed Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin.

In 2008, Morva was convicted of 3 counts of capital murder, 1 for each victim and a 3rd for killing 2 people in less than 3 years, which is a capital offense in Virginia.

In the appeal to McAuliffe, the attorneys wrote that the jury that recommended the death penalty for Morva was not given accurate information about his mental condition.

Jurors were told Morva had a "schizotypal personality disorder" that included odd beliefs and attitudes but was not treatable, the attorneys' statement read.

But a fuller evaluation conducted later, during Morva's appeals, determined that he had a more serious diagnosis of delusional disorder, a condition that would make him unable to tell reality from delusion, the attorneys wrote.

"I hope that Governor McAuliffe will be able to put himself in William Morva's shoes and feel what it must be like to live in a reality that no one else does and to worry every day that the people who are supposed to care the most about you are conspiring to hurt you," Dawn Davison, one of Morva's attorneys, said in the statement.

Morva's appeals ran for years after his conviction, until the U.S. Supreme Court in February declined to consider his case.

The most recent execution in Virginia was Ricky Javon Gray's in January. He died by lethal injection for the 2006 murders of 2 sisters in Richmond during a rampage that included killing their parents.

In April, McAuliffe commuted Ivan Teleguz's sentence from death to life in prison in a murder-for-hire case. The governor said then that he did not think Teleguz was innocent but acted because the sentencing phase of Teleguz's trial had been unfair, with jurors given false information.

Source: roanoke.com, June 20, 2017

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