Virginia executes inmate after governor rejects delusional diagnosis; ABA had raised concerns

Death Penalty



The state of Virginia executed William Morva on Thursday night after the governor rejected clemency petition claims that the inmate suffered from a delusional disorder and was unable to understand the consequences of his actions.

A corrections spokeswoman said the execution took place without any complications, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Morva, 35, was executed for killing a hospital security guard and deputy sheriff during a 2006 escape that began in a hospital where he was being treated for injuries. The Associated Press also covered the execution.

ABA President Linda A. Klein had written a letter to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe urging him to consider evidence that Morva had a significant history of severe mental illness. “It is for that reason that the ABA has concerns about whether the death penalty is appropriate in his case,” Klein wrote.

The ABA takes the position that individuals should not be executed if they have severe mental illness at the time of their crime or at the time of execution.

McAuliffe explained his decision in a statement. The governor cited findings by three mental health experts appointed by the trial court that Morva may have personality disorders, but they didn’t prevent him from understanding the consequences of his actions. McAuliffe also said mental health staff at the prison who monitored Morva for nine years had not reported evidence of a delusional disorder or severe mental illness.

Virginia no longer allows witnesses to view the execution chamber until the IV lines are in place. The Times-Dispatch reports that Morva was breathing deeply and nodding both before and after the first drug was administered. At one point, the newspaper reports, Morva “appeared to be speaking and made a loud sound like a hiccup. His diaphragm contracted sharply several times. He then grew still.”

The final drugs were administered after Morva was checked to make sure he was unconscious.

Hat tip the Marshall Project.

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