William Morva was executed by lethal injection Thursday after supporters failed to convince Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe [official website] to grant him clemency because of a mental illness. Morva, a US Hungarian national, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a hospital security guard and a Sheriff’s deputy in 2008. A court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed Morva with delusional disorder and believes that he may have committed the murders due to delusions he was experiencing. Earlier this week two UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] McAuliffe to halt the planned execution. According to the experts, Morva did not receive “reasonable accommodations” during his trial nor was the jury informed of his condition. McAuliffe, despite being personally opposed to the death penalty, stated [press release]:
I have determined 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 in accordance with the law of our Commonwealth. In short, 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.
Three of Virginia’s Congressional representatives and two dozen members of the state’s General Assembly opposed [WP report] the execution.
Recently the death penalty has been a pressing issue across the country. Earlier this week Florida Governor Rick Scott scheduled [JURIST report] the execution of Mark Asay which will be the state’s first execution in nearly two years. The execution of death row inmates in Florida had been halted after their sentencing procedure was deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. In June a federal appeals court reversed [JURIST report] a lower court decision and found Ohio’s execution protocol to be constitutional. In that same week a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] major changes to Arizona death penalty procedures due to prisoner complaints. Earlier in June the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that psychiatric assistance must be provided for indigent defendants sentenced to the death penalty. In May the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would reinstate the death penalty. Florida’s new bill [JURIST report] declaring that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury was signed into law in March. In January the US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to consider a challenge to Alabama’s death penalty system.