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Governor Terry McAuliffe: Don’t Execute William Morva on July 6

This petition had 3,880 supporters

William Morva was sentenced to death by jurors who were unaware that his crimes were driven by persecutory delusions that were beyond his control. William suffers from delusional disorder, a serious mental illness with psychotic features. Because of his delusions, William earnestly and fervently believes in a reality that is simply not true. At times, his delusions caused him to believe that he was called by a supernatural power to save the world, or save specific indigenous tribes. These delusions also caused him to believe that while awaiting trial in a previous case, he was being wrongly incarcerated in conditions so deplorable that they were life-threatening and that someone wanted him dead. Driven by these delusions, he escaped custody and killed two men. Delusional disorder does not prevent people like William from functioning in many areas of life. But in the aspects of William’s life tied to his delusions, he is incapable of thinking and acting rationally.

William was in a local jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of an injury. William escaped custody at the hospital, fatally shooting Derrick McFarland, a hospital security guard. The next day he fatally shot Eric Sutphin, a corporal with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. He was apprehended a few hours later. Jurors never heard about William’s illness or the impact it had on his escape from custody. Jurors never heard about William’s delusions and how those delusions caused William to believe he was going to die in jail. Jurors were incorrectly told that although William had “odd beliefs,” he did not have delusions. Odd beliefs are something William could have changed. But delusions were beyond his control.

After trial, William was appointed new lawyers who uncovered evidence of his delusions. With this new evidence, experts have determined that William has suffered for years from delusional disorder. Despite recommendations from an evaluating psychiatrist, William has never received treatment for his disorder while on Death Row. 

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe will be considering William’s request for clemency—a commutation of his death sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole. For technical reasons, courts have not been able to consider whether William is mentally ill and whether his crimes were driven by his delusions. Ask Governor McAuliffe to take into account William’s illness and the impact it had on these crimes. Ask him to show mercy and commute William’s death sentence to life in prison.

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