RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Attorneys for a man nearing his execution date for killing two people during an escape are asking Virginia’s governor to spare his life, saying the crimes resulted from a mental illness so severe that he could not distinguish delusions from reality.
William Morva’s attorneys have petitioned Gov. Terry McAuliffe for clemency, asking him to halt the man’s July 6 execution and commute his sentence to life without parole. They say jurors weren’t told the extent of Morva’s mental illness, and urged the governor to ensure he gets treatment, rather than a lethal injection.
“I hope that Governor McAuliffe will be able to put himself in William Morva’s shoes and feel what it must be like to believe in a reality that no one else does and to worry every day that the people who are supposed to care the most about you are conspiring to hurt you,” attorney Dawn Davison said in a statement on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the governor, Brian Coy, said in an email that McAullife will announce a decision when his review of the clemency petition is complete.
Morva had been jailed for about a year awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges when he was taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury in 2006. He overpowered and disarmed a Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy, then shot an unarmed security guard, 32-year-old Derrick McFarland, before fleeing.
Morva’s escape set off a police manhunt that forced Virginia Tech to cancel classes on the first day of the academic year and warn students to stay inside. A day later, Morva fatally shot another Montgomery County deputy, Eric Sutphin, who had been searching for the inmate on a walking trail near the Blacksburg campus.
Later that day, police found Morva lying in a ditch with the deputy’s gun on the ground nearby.
Morva’s attorneys say his delusional disorder has made him falsely believe, among other things, that he “was called to lead indigenous tribes on an unexplained quest,” and that law enforcement conspired with former President George W. Bush’s administration to put him behind bars.
They say Morva believed his life at the jail was at risk when he overpowered McFarland at the hospital and shot him.
Jurors who sentenced Morva to death were told he had a “schizotypal personality disorder,” which they say is not as severe as delusional disorder and led jurors to believe that the man had only “odd beliefs.”
Morva, now 35, has never received proper treatment for his mental illness, his attorneys say.
McAuliffe has only called off one execution since he took office: In April, he commuted Ivan Teleguz’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, saying jurors were given false information that may have swayed their sentencing. Teleguz was convicted in 2006 of ordering the death of his ex-girlfriend.
This story has been corrected to show the time element is Tuesday, not Wednesday.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.