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Prosecutor pushes for Virginia man’s execution despite signs of serious mental illness

Prosecutor pushes for Virginia man’s execution despite signs of serious mental illness


By all accounts William Morva has serious mental health issues, but he is still likely to be executed next month, with the prosecutor who convicted him pushing for his execution.

Morva is now scheduled to be executed on July 6. He has exhausted his appeals and his only chance now appears to be if Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe commutes his sentence.

McAuliffe has said he’s reviewing the case.

Mary Pettitt, the Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney, has urged McAuliffe to let the execution go forward. Pettitt prosecuted Morva when she was an assistant prosecutor and argues that he’s not mentally ill.

Morva has declined to see his lawyers or his mother for years, insisting they are part of a conspiracy to kill him.

Morva was convicted of the 2006 murders of Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eric Sutphin and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was sentenced to death even though his lawyers claimed he suffered from serious mental illness that made it difficult for him to ascertain what is real and what are his delusions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of people who committed crimes while they were juveniles and also barred the execution of people who are intellectually disabled. Individuals with severe mental illness may not be executed if their understanding of the reason they are being punished is so degraded as to undermine the retributive goal of imposing that punishment. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has so far declined to intervene in Morva’s case.

At his trial doctors said Morva was not delusional, something his mother and his lawyers strongly dispute.

According to the Washington Post, years before Morva committed murder, “In Blacksburg, he walked barefoot in winter and sometimes slept in the Jefferson National Forest, buried in piles of leaves. He was known at the local coffee shop for diatribes about politics and religion, and confided in family and close friends about what he said were special powers he possessed to fix the world’s problems.”

After the jury that convicted him recommended death, Morva had a chance to speak and went on a diatribe.

“I’m almost done. You may kill me, that’s guaranteed. I can’t fight,” Morva said. “There’s nothing more I can do. But there are others like me, and I hope you know that. And soon they’re going to get together. They’re going to sweep over your whole civilization and they’re going to wipe these smiles off of your faces forever.”