Virginia plans to execute a mentally ill man in July; we can try to prevent that


William Morva suffers from delusional disorder, a disease that makes him believe things that aren’t true. It’s a serious mental illness, similar to schizophrenia, and it caused him to commit two murders for which the state of Virginia now wants to execute him. He is scheduled to die on July 6.

William Morva was a sweet, sensitive, and compassionate boy. He was well-loved by his group of friends, interested in theatre and music, and passionate about social justice. As he grew older, Morva became increasingly irrational and consumed by delusions, and he dropped out of high school in his senior year and eventually went to live in the Virginia woods. After being held in a county jail for a year awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges, his mental condition deteriorated even further. In 2006, after receiving medical treatment at a local hospital, Morva disarmed the deputy escorting him, and fatally shot a hospital security guard during his escape. The following day he shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy. He was sentenced to death in May 2008.

The jury was never fully informed of the extent of Morva’s mental illness. In fact, trial experts told jurors he simply had “odd beliefs” and that he didn’t suffer delusions. (Just before he was sentenced to death Morva told the court he was renouncing his “slave name” and was now to be called “Nemo.”)

However, post-trial, experts determined that Morva suffers from delusional disorder, and was never treated for this illness.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled that executing the mentally ill is unconstitutional, but eight states now have legislation pending that would bar the mentally ill from being sentenced to death. The New York Times reported in April that “If enough states exempt people with such illnesses, the Supreme Court may decide that national standards of decency have evolved and follow suit.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has the power to grant William Morva clemency based on his mental illness. If you believe that executing a mentally ill man is not only inhumane but incomprehensible, please join us in asking Gov. McAuliffe to commute Morva’s sentence to life in prison without parole. Call Gov. McAuliffe at (804) 786-2211, and sign Morva’s petition. You can read more about Morse’s case on this website.

This is another total miscarriage of justice.

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