- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

RICHMOND — Virginia plans to execute next week a man the state itself says appears to be severely mentally retarded, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring execution of the mentally retarded.

Death row inmate Percy L. Walton, scheduled to die Wednesday in the electric chair, said yesterday he has no idea why he chose the chair as his method of execution for robbing and killing three neighbors in a Danville apartment complex.

“I don’t even know,” he told the Associated Press in a phone interview from death row at Sussex I State Prison in Waverly. “I think my man with the blue shirt, he circled one of the words. He may have been my counselor. He asked me, ‘Electrocution or lethal injection.’ I told him I wanted electrocution. I don’t know [why]. I don’t even know. I don’t even know.”

Walton “is severely mentally ill. He is extremely psychotic,” said his attorney, Jennifer Givens. “I’m sure he does not even know he chose” electrocution.

She said he also is mentally retarded. An April 30 mental health evaluation by the Department of Corrections found that Walton “appears to be severely mental retarded.”

Another evaluation May 14 said Walton was schizophrenic and psychotic with an IQ of 66 but that he understands he is to be put to death May 28 and “knows that he was convicted of several murders.” The report also says Walton “doesn’t shower, talks to himself at night and during the day, and … bangs on walls.”

The IQ test that returned the 66 score is “not the gold standard for IQ testing,” the May 14 report said, noting that previous testing of Walton “shows no mental retardation.” The AP obtained copies of the Department of Corrections’ evaluations.

Carrie Cantrell, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, said the previous testing by Walton’s own experts found he was not retarded. She declined to comment on the Department of Corrections findings.

A state official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Walton has tested above 70 before but that the retardation issue is raised in his clemency request, which includes the Department of Corrections medical documents. The office of Gov. Mark Warner said it could not comment on a pending clemency request.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that executing mentally retarded people is unconstitutionally cruel. A person with an IQ of 70 or lower is generally considered mentally retarded and would be ineligible for execution under the Supreme Court ruling.

Condemned inmates in Virginia are required to choose between the electric chair or lethal injection at least 15 days before their execution.

Walton, 24, would be the second consecutive inmate to be electrocuted in Virginia. Earl Bramblett, convicted of murdering a Roanoke couple and their two young daughters, died in the electric chair at the Greensville Correctional Center on April 9.

Walton pleaded guilty in 1997 to three counts of capital murder for a series of slayings in Danville in November 1996.

Jessie and Elizabeth Kendrick, a couple in their 80s, were discovered by their daughter and police inside their town house. Each had been shot once in the top of the head. Two days later, police found the body of Archie Moore, 33, inside a closet in his apartment.

Walton said yesterday he had no idea why he murdered Moore and the Kendricks. “Oh, I don’t even know,” he said.

On the first day of Walton’s two-day sentencing hearing, an inmate testified how Walton enthusiastically described every move he made in killing the three persons and their reactions, including telling Mrs. Kendrick to shut up after she pleaded for her life. Walton smiled and laughed often during his sentencing.

In February, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Walton’s claims that his trial lawyer made mistakes, including failing to produce mitigating mental health evidence during the sentencing.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has rejected appeals by Walton, but his attorneys filed another one Monday with the high court.

Mumbling and rambling through the interview, Walton seemed confused when asked if he was afraid of dying.

“Nah, I ain’t. I’m all right.” Then he added, “I don’t even know.”

Walton said he did not know how long he had been in prison. “What year is it now?” he said.

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