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July 31, 2017

Virginia Death Penalty

Virginia death row inmate William Morva was executed on July 6 despite the efforts of the ABA and other groups who urged Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to reconsider the death sentence due to Morva’s mental health. ABA President Linda A. Klein explained in a June 28 letter that while there is no question that Morva committed the murders for which he was sentenced, he had a “long and significant history of severe mental illness” that casts doubt on whether the death penalty was appropriate in his case. A thorough post-conviction investigation that included Morva’s psychiatric history led a clinical expert to declare that he suffered from a delusional disorder and likely believed that people were trying to kill him at the time of his crimes. Klein urged McAuliffe “to give full consideration” to the issue of Morva’s severe mental illness and “how it may have impacted his understanding of reality and ability to control his actions before deciding whether to grant or deny his clemency petition.” Klein said that while the ABA does not oppose or support capital punishment on its merits, the organization has a long history of speaking against the death penalty for “individuals who do not have the highest culpability for the most serious crimes,” such as juveniles or persons with intellectual disabilities. The ABA opposes the death penalty for those who exhibit severe mental illness either at the time of the crime or the time of execution. McAuliffe, in denying clemency for Morva, said that, after extensive review and deliberation, he “did not find sufficient cause to justify overturning the will of the jury that convicted and sentenced him.”


Back to the July 2017 Washington Letter