Virginia executes convicted murderer William Morva

William Morva was executed Thursday night, becoming the 113th person to be executed in Virginia since the U.S. ban on capital punishment ended in 1976 -- more than any other state, but two.

By Doug G. Ware and Andrew V. Pestano

July 6 (UPI) -- Death row inmate William C. Morva was executed at 9:01 p.m. Thursday night, after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe refused pleas for clemency regarding the prisoner's mental state.

Morva refused to give any last words, according to WWBT reporter Drew Wilder, who served as an official media witness to the execution.


"His head would tilt up a little bit and then back down," Wilder said, describing Morva's final moments before the execution. "You could see the collar of his shirt shaking, what appeared to be someone that was very nervous."

While laying face-up on the gurney, Morva spoke but a microphone did not pick up what he was saying, Wilder reported.

After the lethal injection was administered, Morva grasped for air.

"His stomach came out and contracted pretty dramatically," Wilder said.

Before the execution, there was a flurry of last-minute appeals to the governor to save the convicted double murderer -- including a plea from one of the victims' daughter. But McAuliffe denied all of them Thursday afternoon and let the execution take place.


Morva, a Hungarian-American dual citizen, was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murders of hospital security guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Corporal Eric Sutphin two years earlier.

Morva's mental state, however, has led some to question whether putting him to death is the proper punishment. Three years ago, a court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed him with a delusional disorder, and said the condition could have contributed to the murders -- an argument jurors never heard.

Morva's lawyers said a more serious delusional disorder went undiagnosed until the appeals process.

In making his decision Thursday, though, McAuliffe said he's found no evidence to support the idea that the unheard psychiatric testimony would have changed the jury's mind.

"I do not find sufficient cause in Mr. Morva's petition or case records to justify overturning the will of the jury that convicted and sentenced him," he said in a statement.

McFarland, 32, was overpowered and shot by Morva during a trip to a Virginia hospital in 2006. A day later, Sutphin, 40, was also shot dead by Morva during the manhunt to recapture him.

"Morva brutally attacked a deputy sheriff, stole his firearm and used it to murder Mr. McFarland, who was unarmed and had his hands raised as he was shot in the face from a distance of two feet," the Democratic McAuliffe, who personally opposes the death penalty, continued. "Morva murdered Corporal Sutphin by shooting him in the back of the head.


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"As my team and I gave Mr. Morva's mental state the consideration it deserves, we also consulted with the Virginia Department of Corrections, whose mental health staff have monitored him weekly and assessed him quarterly for the past nine years, and have never reported any evidence of delusional disorder or severe mental illness."

Several states and the U.S. Supreme Court have said the death penalty must be taken off the table in cases where the convict has severe psychiatric illness, and, therefore, a diminished mental state. The question with Morva, though, has been whether he meets that threshold.

Morva, did not receive a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his appeal in February. With McAuliffe's refusal to stop the execution, a stay was Morva's only remaining avenue to survive.

The governor's decision opposed the wishes of Rachel Sutphin, the deputy's daughter, who asked McAuliffe this week to commute Morva's sentence to life in prison -- citing religious and moral grounds.

"I have fought and will continue to fight for clemency for all death row inmates until Virginia declares the death penalty unconstitutional," she wrote in an email. "I have sent my own letter to the governor showing my support for clemency."


Jeaneen Sutphin, the slain deputy's mother, wants the execution to proceed.

"I have no hatred for this creature who shot [Sutphin] execution-style. I just want justice for my son," she told The Roanoke Times Wednesday. "If this comes to pass ... if I shed a tear tomorrow, it will be for William Morva's mother."

Agnes Callamard and Dainius Puras, U.N. special rapporteurs on summary executions, have also called on Virginia to stop the execution.

Morva became the 113th capital sentence in Virginia since the U.S. ban on the practice was lifted in 1976 -- more than any other state except Texas and Oklahoma.

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