Civil liberties wrote Governor and asked members to do the same.Richmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia today praised Governor Tim Kaine for delaying the execution of Percy Walton, a severely mentally ill individual scheduled for lethal injection last night. The Governor intends to conduct an independent evaluation of Walton’s mental state and will decide within six months whether or not to commute his sentence.
Walton pled guilty to three killings in 1996, but doubts about his sanity have haunted his case from the beginning. A state psychiatrist found him competent to stand trial, but also noted that he was a danger to himself and others and recommended that he should be confined to a psychiatric facility. Without a court hearing to determine competency, Walton was sentenced to death.
Later psychiatric evaluations by several state doctors consistently concluded that Walton is a schizophrenic --“floridly psychotic,” according to one psychiatrist -- who does not understand that his execution means his death. These evaluations not only showed Walton to be psychotic, but also that he has been that way since at least age 16, two years before he committed the crimes to which he confessed.
Walton, who does not bathe or leave his cell unless forced by guards, collects and organizes salt and pepper packets and talks to imaginary visitors in his otherwise empty space. He is known as “Horse” by prison guards, who claim the nickname is short for “Crazy Horse.”
“This is a very promising sign from the Governor,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Every psychiatrist who has evaluated Walton in recent years agrees on two things— that Percy Walton was schizophrenic when he committed the crimes that put him on death row and that he still is. I doubt that the Governor’s inquiry is going to come to a different conclusion.”
“The execution of a severely mentally ill person who does not understand his crime or the punishment he faces serves no purpose in a civilized society, except perhaps to make us wonder if we are as civilized as we think we are,” added Willis.
The ACLU of Virginia wrote a letter to Kaine asking that Walton’s sentence be commuted. The ACLU also asked its Virginia members to contact the Governor.
Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022