William Morva is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 9 p.m. EDT Thursday in Jarratt, Va., as a chorus of voices at home and abroad is calling for the execution to be halted amid questions regarding his mental stability.
Morva, 35, was convicted of killing two men in 2006 and sentenced to die two years later. His attorneys are asking Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to commute the sentence to life in prison.
Morva was in jail in August 2006, awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges, when he was taken to the hospital for treatment of a minor injury. He escaped, stealing a sheriff deputy's gun. Then he shot Derrick McFarland, a hospital security guard, and, a day later, Eric Sutphin, a sheriff's deputy, killing both men.
Morva's attorneys do not dispute that Morva pulled the trigger, but say he was suffering from delusions at the time.
"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," Morva's lawyer Dawn Davison told Sandy Hausman from member station WVTF.
At the time, Morva was convinced he had a serious intestinal disorder, according to Davison.
"When he was free, he would eat raw meat or nearly raw meat in large quantities, large quantities of cheese, at times trying a diet that consisted of nuts and berries and pine cones," Davison told Hausman.
Morva's attorneys say that the jurors who sentenced Morva to die in 2008 did not know the seriousness of his mental illness.
As The Associated Press reports:
"Jurors were told Morva suffered from a personality disorder that resulted in 'odd beliefs.' He has since been diagnosed with delusional disorder, a more severe mental illness akin to schizophrenia, his attorneys say."
On Wednesday, two United Nations human rights experts issued a statement describing Morva as "a man with psychosocial disability," saying, "We urge the authorities to annul the death sentence against Mr. Morva and to re-try him in compliance with international standards related to due process and fair trial."
Last month the European Union sent a letter to McAuliffe, a Democrat, asking for clemency. Other European governments, as well as Virginia state legislators have asked for commutation. Morva holds dual Hungarian-American citizenship.
Victim Eric Sutphin's daughter, Rachel Sutphin, is also asking for Morva's life to be spared.
"I am against the death penalty for religious and moral reasons," Sutphin told the AP. "I have fought and will continue to fight for clemency for all death row inmates until Virginia declares the death penalty unconstitutional."
But the slain deputy's mother, Jeaneen Sutphin, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that she hopes the execution goes ahead. "I have no hatred for this creature who shot him execution-style. I just want justice for my son," Sutphin said.
In April, McAuliffe commuted the execution of Ivan Teleguz to life in prison. But he has overseen two other executions as governor, reports member station WAMU.
A McAuliffe spokesman has said he will review Morva's clemency request.