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Press Release - On the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

  • Organization: Office of the Virginia Governor


Timothy M. Kaine FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Governor December 4, 2006


Contact: Kevin Hall
Phone: (804) 225-4260
Cell Phone: (804) 393-9406

Internet:
www.governor.virginia.gov

~ On the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton ~


RICHMOND - Governor Timothy M. Kaine today issued the following statement on the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton:

"On June 8, 2006, I delayed for six months the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton. I did so because of significant questions about Walton's mental competence.

"The question of Walton's mental status is of the utmost importance because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to execute a person who is mentally incompetent. The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote in the seminal case of Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), that the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution 'forbids the execution of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it.' He further concluded that the execution of a mentally incompetent inmate would be a 'uniquely cruel penalty' where the inmate could not comprehend that they are about to die and could not 'prepare, mentally and spiritually' for the execution.

"These principles have guided my review of Walton's scheduled execution. There is no doubt that Walton committed horrific crimes against innocent victims in their own homes, and that the victims' families have suffered greatly. I have no reason to question the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty or the court's decision that death was an appropriate sentence.

"There is also no doubt that the courts have struggled with the question of whether Walton is competent to be executed. Most recently, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed his mental status and, in a narrow 7-6 majority ruling, determined that Walton was competent to be executed. The ruling was limited, however, to psychiatric evaluations and other information pertaining to the period from 1997 and 2003.

"Earlier this year, I was presented with evidence that Walton's mental state had deteriorated since 2003. Due to the concerns that courts had expressed about Walton's mental status and because there was more than a minimal chance that Walton no longer knew why he was to be executed, or that he was even aware of the final punishment he was about to receive, I determined that it was important to have current and independent information about Walton's mental condition in order to comply with the law forbidding execution of a mentally incompetent person.

"Over the past six months, I have been provided with such current and independent information pertaining to Walton's mental state from a number of sources. The additional information has included a thorough review of records maintained by the Department of Corrections, updated evaluations by psychiatrists, and information provided by persons who have interacted with Walton on a regular basis over a period of years.

"After reviewing this information, I am compelled to conclude that Walton is severely mentally impaired and meets the Supreme Court's definition of mental incompetence. Because one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it, his execution cannot proceed at this time.

"At the same time, it is within the realm of possibility - though unlikely - that Walton's mental impairment is not permanent. Accordingly, a commutation of his sentence is not appropriate at this time. Rather, continued observation of Walton's condition over a more extended period of time is the appropriate course of action.

"Therefore, I delay Walton's execution date for 18 months, until June 10, 2008, to permit further observation of Walton's mental condition and competence. On or prior to that date, I will determine whether additional information warrants a different conclusion.

"My thoughts and prayers today are with the families and friends of the victims."

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