Will VA Gov. Spare Mentally Ill Death Row Inmate?

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Unless Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe intervenes, William Morva will die by lethal injection on July 6. In a clemency petition filed last week, forensic psychiatrist Donna Maddox describes her examination of Morva in 2014, the most thorough evaluation to date of his symptoms and medical history. Maddox diagnosed Morva with delusional disorder, a severe mental illness he had likely suffered from for years, The Intercept reports.

In 2006, Morva, then 24, fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy after an escape from the Montgomery County Jail near Blacksburg, Va. Morva had been awaiting trial on armed robbery charges. A jury sentenced him to death. The jurors never heard how Morva went from a free-spirited teenager to a brooding, paranoid man, trapped in what one friend would later describe as a “fantasy land.” Jurors had no way of understanding his mental illness, his petition for clemency argues. If they had, they would likely have voted to spare his life, says The Intercept. Unlike other states, there are no clemency hearings for people facing execution in Virginia. Nor are there recommendations from the board of pardon and parole. The decision is the governor’s alone.

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