A Virginia man who murdered a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy after escaping from custody in 2006 has now been executed last Thursday after an defeated campaign to spare his life over fear of his mental health.
William Morva, 35, was pronounced dead at 9:15 pm after having received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.
It was the first execution that has been carried out in Virginia under a new rule that makes more of the lethal injection process hush-hush.
Morva’s execution came just hours after Virginia’s Democratic governor proclaimed that he would not spare Morva’s life despite pressing from mental health advocates, state lawmakers and attorneys who said the man’s crimes were the result of a hard mental illness that made it unfeasible for him to separate between delusions and reality.
Morva, who was dressed in jeans and a blue shirt, said ‘no’ after he was asked whether he had any last words. A few minutes later, he could be seen and heard saying something, but it wasn’t clear on what he was saying.
In contradicting a clemency petition, Gov. Terry McAuliffe concluded Morva had already received a fair trial. The Democratic governor made the point that experts who assessed the man at the time, and found he didn’t suffer from any malady that would have forestall him from discerning the consequences of his actions and crimes.
He also said prison staff members who supervised Morva for the past nine years never mentioned any evidence of a intense mental illness or neurotic disorder.
McAuliffe had said the following:
‘I personally oppose the death penalty; however, I took an oath to uphold the laws of this Commonwealth regardless of my personal views of those laws, as long as they are being fairly and justly applied.’
Morva was awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in 2005 when he was taken to the hospital to treat an injury.
There, he attacked a sheriff’s deputy with a metal toilet paper holder, stole the deputy’s gun, and shot an unarmed security guard, Derrick McFarland, in the face before fleeing.
A day later, Morva killed another sheriff’s deputy with a bullet to the back of the head. The deputy, Eric Sutphin, had been searching for Morva near Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus when he was shot. Experts who examined Morva for his trial said he suffered from personality disorders that resulted in ‘odd beliefs.’
After his trial, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with delusional disorder, a more severe mental illness akin to schizophrenia that made him falsely believe, among other things, that he has life-threatening gastrointestinal issues and that a former presidential administration conspired with police to imprison him, his attorneys said.
His lawyers argued that Morva escaped and killed the men because he was under the delusion that he was going to die in jail.
Relatives represented Morva as a blissful child who began to devolve mentally while in his teen years.
The years leading up to the killings, Morva regularly slept in the woods and was known around Blacksburg by the names ‘Crazy Will’ and ‘Barefoot Will’ for his inclination to not wear shoes, even in the dead of winter.
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