Virginia’s governor declined to block the execution of convicted killer William Morva on Thursday, despite international pleas that the man be spared because of mental illness.
Morva’s death sentence, for killing an unarmed security guard and a sheriff’s deputy in a 2006 escape from custody, has triggered renewed debate about capital punishment for the mentally ill. Morva, 35, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT on Friday).
Governor Terry McAuliffe said examinations by prison doctors since Morva’s 2008 conviction had shown no sign that he suffered from severe mental illness or delusional disorder, an ailment akin to schizophrenia, as his lawyers have argued.
“The record before me does not contain sufficient evidence to warrant the extraordinary step of overturning the decision of a lawfully impaneled jury following a properly conducted trial,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.
More than 34,000 people, along with U.N. human rights experts and the daughter of the slain deputy, had asked McAuliffe to spare Morva’s life on grounds that he was severely mentally ill.
Morva holds dual U.S.-Hungarian citizenship, and the European Union and the Hungarian embassy in Washington had called on McAuliffe to spare his life.
Dawn Davison, one of Morva’s lawyers, said that he was in the grip of a powerful psychosis at the time of the killings and that jurors had not been told that he could be restored to health with treatment.
“He is not the ‘worst of the worst’ for whom the death penalty is supposed to be reserved,” she said in a statement.
Morva’s deadly 2006 rampage took place after he was taken to a hospital for minor injuries while being held in the Montgomery County Jail on robbery charges.
In an attempt to escape, he stole a gun from a deputy sheriff at the hospital and shot the security guard. The next day, before being recaptured, Morva shot the deputy sheriff during a search for him.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined in February to hear Morva’s appeal.
Morva’s execution will be the 13th in the United States this year, and the 113th in Virginia since the Supreme Court allowed resumption of the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
That number would place Virginia second among states on the U.S. executions list behind Texas, which has had 542.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Steve Orlofsky)