The daughter of a slain sheriff’s deputy has urged Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to stop the execution of the man who killed her father and a hospital security guard in 2006.
The statement Wednesday from Rachel Sutphin in support of clemency for William Morva comes one day before he is scheduled to be executed. Sutphin adds a powerful, personal voice to a growing number of state lawmakers urging McAuliffe to commute Morva’s death sentence.
Morva, 35, was convicted in 2008 for fatally shooting Cpl. Eric Sutphin and hospital guard Derrick McFarland after escaping from custody. His clemency campaign has attracted local and international supporters who say the jury that sentenced Morva to death was not informed of his severe mental illness.
The effort also comes as lawmakers in eight states have proposed eliminating capital punishment for people with severe mental illnesses.
In her statement Wednesday, Rachel Sutphin wrote, “I am against the death penalty for religious and moral reasons. I have fought and will continue to fight for clemency for all death row inmates until Virginia declares the death penalty unconstitutional. I have sent my own letter to the governor showing my support for clemency.”
Sutphin, a 20-year-old student at Virginia Tech, is one of the sheriff deputy’s two daughters. She asked for privacy for her family and for the McFarlands, and said she was writing only for herself and not for the other relatives of the victims.
A spokesman for McAuliffe said the governor has received Sutphin’s letter.
“He is reviewing all of the materials submitted and will make a statement when the review is complete,” spokesman Brian Coy said.
More than a dozen Democratic members of the Virginia General Assembly have joined more than 30,000 other petitioners in the clemency effort.
Morva’s lawyer Dawn Davison of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center has said Morva was suffering from delusional disorder at the time of the shootings and did not fully understand his crimes. During sentencing, supporters say, jurors were told incorrectly that Morva was not delusional.
Mary K. Pettitt, the Montgomery County, Va., Commonwealth Attorney who helped prosecute Morva, has told McAuliffe that the jury had sufficient information about his mental health and rendered a fair verdict.
“The fairness of his trial has been reviewed, and reviewed, and reviewed with all courts, both state and federal, finding no unfairness or basis to overturn the voice of that jury,” Pettitt wrote in a letter to the governor.
Morva ran out of courtroom appeals when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his case in February, leaving the governor as his last hope. Morva’s execution is set for 9 p.m. Thursday.