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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…

UN calls on Gov. McAuliffe to halt William Morva's execution

Two 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 Pūras, 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 second only to Texas, with 542, among states with the death penalty.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 5, 2017


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


The daughter of one of two 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: Richmond Times-Dispatch, Frank Green, July 5, 2017

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