Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coverage of Walton Commutation

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch ("Triple murderer spared from execution by Kaine," June 10, 2008):

"Gov. Timothy M. Kaine commuted Percy Levar Walton's death sentences to life without parole yesterday, sparing the triple murderer execution by injection tonight.

Though courts have held that Walton could be executed, Kaine said he granted clemency because Walton was not mentally competent. In 2006, Kaine twice delayed Walton's execution over concerns he was mentally ill.

'Given the extended period of time over which Walton has exhibited this lack of mental competence, I must conclude that a commutation of his sentence . . . is now the only constitutionally appropriate course of action,' Kaine said in a prepared statement.

In 1996, Walton murdered Jessie Kendrick, 80, Elizabeth Kendrick, 81, and Archie D. Moore Jr., 33. All three lived near Walton in Danville. Kaine said there was no doubt Walton was guilty of the crimes, and he did not question the decision to seek the death penalty.

'The victims met a fate they did not deserve, and the families of the victims have suffered greatly from the loss of their loved ones,' Kaine said.

Learning of Kaine's decision, Irene Jurscaga, 87, of Suffolk, sister of Elizabeth Kendrick, said, 'I'm very disappointed.' Earlier yesterday, she said she hoped the clemency request would be turned down.

'He killed three people. He killed my dear sister, my brother-in-law. They were innocent people. This has been torture for us for the last 12 years,' she said. 'When he committed this crime . . . he knew what he was doing.'

Kaine said that while Walton may have been sane when he committed the murders, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution 'forbids the execution of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it.'

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell said he respectfully disagrees with Kaine's decision. 'The United States Supreme Court denied Walton's petition in which he argued that he is incompetent and requested that his execution be stayed,' he said.

McDonnell said nothing prevented Walton from bringing evidence of incompetence before the courts. 'Evidence of an inmate's competency is more effectively evaluated by a judicial officer,' McDonnell said.

Kaine, who opposes capital punishment, has let five executions proceed. This was the first time he commuted a death sentence. Governors L. Douglas Wilder, George Allen, Jim Gilmore and Mark R. Warner commuted a total of seven death sentences since executions were allowed to resume in 1976.

Experts have differed on Walton's condition over the years.

In June 2006, Kaine said Walton's clemency petition presented information that Walton had schizophrenia and that his mental state had deteriorated since 2003, the most recent information the courts had to consider at the time in 2006.

'I was compelled to conclude [in 2006] that Walton was seriously mentally impaired and that he met the Supreme Court's definition of mental incompetence,' he said.

Since then, Kaine said, there has been no improvement. 'One cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it,' Kaine said.

Nash Bilisoly, one of Walton's lawyers, said, 'I think the governor acted appropriately and compassionately in granting the clemency request.'

He said he asked prison authorities to notify Walton, who on Thursday was moved from death row to the Greensville Correctional Center, where executions are conducted.

The news, Bilisoly said, 'won't make any difference to him. He will not know.'

No comments: