Kaine Delays Execution Of Inmate for 6 Months
Friday, June 9, 2006
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine delayed the execution of triple-killer Percy Levar Walton yesterday, a move that political adversaries said renews questions about the governor's commitment to enforce the death penalty.
In a statement issued a little more than an hour before Walton's scheduled execution, Kaine said he would conduct an independent inquiry to determine whether Walton is too mentally ill to be put to death.
"Due to the history of judicial concern about his mental status, the claims in Walton's clemency petition are entitled to serious consideration," Kaine (D) wrote, ordering a new execution date in six months. "It would be imprudent to either proceed with the execution or grant clemency without further review."
Jennifer Givens, one of Walton's attorneys, said that she was pleased with Kaine's decision and that an inquiry would confirm that Walton's mental difficulties are severe enough to bar his execution.
"I was hoping that the governor would do the right thing, and he has. He's recognized the seriousness of executing someone with an IQ of 66 and who is severely mentally ill," Givens said. "I have complete confidence that once he gets the findings he will determine that a commutation is appropriate."
But Kaine's critics said the governor's decision to delay the execution is a slap at the judicial system that convicted Walton, sentenced him to die and later allowed that punishment to stand through years of appeals.
"During the campaign in 2005, a lot of people questioned the governor's commitment to enforcing the death penalty," said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). "[Kaine's decision] is going to renew the debate about this governor's willingness to enforce the death penalty when it's clearly in order."
Former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, whose political advertisements originally questioned whether Kaine would allow executions to proceed, said the governor's actions are misplaced and come too late.
"That just defeats the entire judicial process," said Kilgore (R), who lost to Kaine last fall. "A jury determined the case. They had many appeals in court after court."
Walton, 27, is the second death-row inmate to submit a clemency petition to Kaine since he became governor in January. The first was executed April 27 after Kaine declined to intervene. In Walton's case, Kaine stopped short of clemency.
In his statement, Kaine said he was not satisfied that Walton has received a complete mental evaluation. A spokesman for his office declined to offer details about how Kaine intends to conduct the inquiry, saying only that the governor will cooperate with the attorney general's office and Walton's attorneys to develop a fair process.
J. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R), said in a written statement that the courts' previous findings that Walton is competent to be executed should stand, but he said McDonnell accepts the governor's right to exercise his authority.