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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

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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