The governor of Virginia
on Thursday refused to grant a last-minute stay of execution to a mentally disturbed death row inmate convicted of killing a prison guard and a police officer during a jailbreak.
William Morva, a 35-year-old dual US-Hungarian citizen who human rights activists say suffers from a mental disorder akin to schizophrenia, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 9 pm on Thursday (0100 GMT Friday).
“The record before me does not contain sufficient evidence to warrant the extraordinary step of overturning the decision of a lawfully empaneled jury following a properly conducted trial,” said Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia governor who has said he personally opposes capital punishment but has allowed two executions to go ahead.
McAuliffe said he and his legal team had closely examined the case and concluded that “Mr. Morva was given a fair trial and that the jury heard substantial evidence about his mental health as they prepared to sentence him.”
Morva had originally been jailed for attempted armed robbery. But in 2006 he escaped from a Virginia prison hospital, beating up a deputy and taking his pistol, which he then used to kill a guard. He used the same weapon to shoot dead another sheriff’s deputy a day later during a manhunt close to the campus of Virgina Tech university.
Morva was sentenced to death in 2008, even though two psychiatrists diagnosed him with a severe mental disorder.
“Mr. Morva’s petition relies on the diagnosis of a psychiatrist who evaluated him nearly seven years after his trial and conviction,” said McAuliffe.
“My team and I evaluated that report closely alongside the findings of the experts who testified at trial in order to determine if the totality of their findings might have led the jury or appellate courts to hand down a different sentence,” he said.
Morva’s defenders say he has long suffered from psychological delusions which render him incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions, and that jurors were not given an accurate picture of his mental state during his trial.
The governor’s refusal to spare Morva came a day after two top UN human rights officials called for a stay of execution, expressing deep concern that “Mr. Morva’s original trial did not meet fair trial safeguards.”