© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawyers Seek Clemency for Murderer Who Is Mentally Ill


William Morva, who was convicted of a double murder in Blacksburg nine years ago, is supposed to be executed next month, but his lawyers have filed a petition for clemency from the governor, arguing the man suffers serious mental illness. Sandy Hausman has more on that story.

In his early 20’s, William Morva spent a year in the Montgomery County Jail for attempted armed robbery.  During that time, he was convinced that prison food was killing him. He longed for a diet of raw meat, berries, and pinecones. On a trip to the hospital lawyer Dawn Davison says he escaped, stealing a gun from his guard, killing a security officer at the medical center and fatally shooting a sheriff’s deputy. Davison says Morva was delusional.

“One of the functions of delusional disorder is that a person is just unable to distinguish their own reality from objective reality, " she explains. "In William’s mind he was dying in that jail, and he only took the steps that he believed were necessary in order to save his own life.”

But the jury that sentenced him to die did not know how serious his illness was. Now, he’s set to be executed on July 6th, and the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center is asking Governor Terry McAuliffe to commute his death sentence to life behind bars.

“The power of executive clemency has been used traditionally in Virginia for two things.  One is in cases where there is a question of innocence, and another is in cases where you have a severe mental illness that comes into play,” Davison says.

A spokesman says McAuliffe is on a trade mission in Europe and will review the request when he returns at the end of the month.