- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine last night delayed the execution of a triple killer just more than an hour before he was scheduled to be put to death amid claims that the condemned man is mentally retarded and insane.

Mr. Kaine’s decision came moments after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay of execution.

Percy Walton, 27, had been scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center for the 1996 murders of three neighbors in Danville.

Mr. Kaine delayed the execution for six months, until Dec. 8, to allow for an independent evaluation of Walton’s mental condition and competence.

“It would be imprudent to either proceed with the execution or grant clemency without further review,” Mr. Kaine said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane and mentally retarded but left definitions up to the states. In their petition to the high court, Walton’s attorneys argue that their client is suffering from schizophrenia and is incapable of understanding the concept of death, therefore making him ineligible for execution. In a clemency petition to the governor, they also argue that Walton is mentally retarded.

Walton’s mental state has been debated for nearly a decade. His attorneys say he keeps no personal effects in his cell, except for a mountain of salt and pepper packets. He rarely speaks and occasionally bursts into random bouts of laughter. His attorneys also say he does not understand that his execution will mean the physical end of his life; he, instead, thinks he will go to Burger King after he is put to death.

The Virginia attorney general’s office has argued that intelligence scores taken when Walton was 17 and 18 place him above the accepted range for mental retardation, though other evaluations were conflicting. The state’s attorneys also deny that Walton is insane.

On Wednesday, Walton briefly won a stay from a federal judge, who ruled that authorities should delay the execution until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a separate case that challenges the way that states execute killers. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling later in the day.

The Kendricks’ daughter, Barbara Case, 68, of Brandon, Miss., said she has forgiven Walton for murdering her parents and is ambivalent about whether he is executed.

“I’d be just as happy if he spent the rest of his life locked up thinking about what he did each and every day,” she said. “Scripture said, ‘Vengeance is mine.’ If he doesn’t repent, he’ll get what’s coming to him from God — not from any of us.”

But Mrs. Kendrick’s sister, 85-year-old Irene Jurscaga of Suffolk, said she thinks Walton is faking his behavior to save his own life — a life that she thinks should end.

“He must be taken out of society,” Mrs. Jurscaga said, sobbing. “He was sane. He was just on a rampage.”

Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said earlier in the day that Walton’s final meal request was the same food being served to the rest of the inmates: macaroni, greens, bread, cookies and milk. Inmates are not allowed to receive their final meal from a source outside the prison, such as Burger King.

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