[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VIRGINIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 8 03:35:20 UTC 2006
VIRGINIA----stay of execution lifted----impending execution
Inmate's Execution Still Set for Tonight----Stay Voided for Man Experts
Say Is Retarded
Virginia death-row inmate Percy Levar Walton has said he knows exactly
what will happen if the state executes him tonight for killing 3 people a
decade ago. He believes, his attorneys say, that his execution not only
will bring the victims back to life, but it might also secure him a spot
on national television, raise his grandfather from the dead and earn him a
trip to Burger King on a motorcycle.
Walton's attorneys say that Walton, 27, who experts agree is mentally
retarded and schizophrenic, has spent most of his time on death row pacing
his cell, collecting piles of salt and pepper packets and babbling
nonsensically to himself.
But J. Martin Tucker, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Robert F.
McDonnell (R), says Walton is "competent to stand for execution."
Walton won a reprieve yesterday after a federal judge in Norfolk halted
his execution pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision about the
constitutionality of lethal injection. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 4th Circuit in Richmond granted McDonnell's request to vacate the
stay, and Walton is scheduled to be executed at 9 p.m.
In a May 22 appeal, attorneys for Walton said his "mental illness and
severe cognitive defects" make it unlikely that he could alert his
executioners to problems with the lethal injection procedure.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith issued a restraining order the
next day and extended a full stay of execution yesterday. Her order was
vacated by the appeals court in a matter of hours.
In April, attorneys for Florida inmate Clarence E. Hill argued before the
Supreme Court that the three-drug combination used to execute death-row
inmates would cause unnecessary pain, violating the constitutional
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. A decision in that case
is expected before the end of the month.
The decision late yesterday by the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
will not end efforts to keep Walton from the death chamber, his attorneys
"Walton's case will come back up," said attorney F. Nash Bilisoly. "The
fact remains that a man with an IQ of 66 will be scheduled to be
Prosecutors and psychiatrists have debated for years whether Walton's
mental illness should bar him from being executed. That debate could come
to an abrupt end without intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court or
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).
A spokesman for Kaine said yesterday that the governor is reviewing
Jennifer Givens, co-counsel on Walton's case, said that in recent days,
she and Bilisoly have repeatedly explained to Walton that he could soon
die. But they believe he cannot comprehend that.
"There's nothing that registers with him. He simply does not know that
this will mean the end of his physical life," Givens said. Psychological
experts on both sides agree about Walton's mental state. But in March, the
appeals court affirmed a three-year-old lower federal court ruling that
Walton's mental condition does not interfere with his ability to
comprehend that his death sentence is punishment for 3 killings in 1996.
The 7 to 6 decision forced Walton's attorneys last month to ask the U.S.
Supreme Court to take up Walton's case and to file a clemency petition
asking Kaine to commute his sentence to life in prison.
Walton's scheduled execution would be the second test this year of Kaine's
public resolve to uphold the death penalty despite his stated personal
opposition to capital punishment. In April, Kaine, a Catholic who as a
young private lawyer defended 2 death-row inmates, allowed the execution
of Dexter Lee Vinson to go forward.
Walton pleaded guilty in 1997 to shooting Jessie and Elizabeth Kendrick,
an elderly Danville couple, and later killing his neighbor, Archie Moore,
stuffing his body in a closet and sprinkling it with cologne. No
competency hearing was held before the death sentence was issued.
Barbara K. Case, the Kendricks' daughter, says she has forgiven Walton.
Raised Catholic and now a Baptist who lives in Mississippi, Case said she
grieved deeply for her parents but was taught to believe the death penalty
"If right now he is insane and he doesn't know right from wrong and he
doesn't know diddly squat, what purpose would it serve? I'd get no
satisfaction out of watching him die," Case said.
The Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright in 1986 that it is
unconstitutional to execute the insane. More recently, the high court
prohibited the execution of the mentally retarded but left it up to the
states to define retardation.
Legal experts say more recent lower court decisions on cases such as
Walton's have eroded the force of Ford v. Wainwright, reducing the pool of
death-row inmates who might be considered under the decision and
trivializing the meaning of mental illness. Richard J. Bonnie, director of
the University of Virginia's Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public
Policy, said the appeals court's March decision on Walton's appeal
undermines the fundamental principle of capital punishment as retribution.
"Putting a mad dog to sleep that is dangerous is not punishment," Bonnie
said. "What we have to understand is that the death penalty is meant to be
an example of personal responsibility through punishment. What that
requires is that the subject of the punishment understand why he is being
(source: Washington Post)
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