(CN) – A Virginia man who killed a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy after escaping from custody in 2006 was executed under a new and some say, secretive state protocol, after an unsuccessful campaign to spare his life over concerns about his mental health.
William Morva was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m. Thursday night after a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.
It was the first execution carried out in Virginia under a new protocol that makes more of the lethal injection procedure secret.
Morva’s execution came hours after Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he would not spare Morva’s life despite pressure from mental health advocates, state lawmakers and attorneys who said the man’s crimes were the result of a severe mental illness that made it impossible for him to distinguish between delusions and reality.
In denying a clemency petition, McAuliffe said he believed Morva received a fair trial. The governor noted that experts who evaluated the man at the time found he didn’t suffer from any illness that would have prevented him from understanding the consequences of his crimes.
He also said prison staff members who monitored Morva for the past nine years never reported any evidence of a severe mental illness or delusional disorder.
“I personally oppose the death penalty; however, I took an oath to uphold the laws of this Commonwealth regardless of my personal views of those laws, as long as they are being fairly and justly applied,” McAuliffe said in a written statement.
Morva was awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in 2005 when he was taken to the hospital to treat an injury.
While there, he attacked a sheriff’s deputy with a metal toilet paper holder, stole the deputy’s gun, and shot an unarmed security guard, Derrick McFarland, in the face before fleeing.
Morva killed another sheriff’s deputy the following day by shooting him in the back of the head. The deputy, Eric Sutphin, had been searching for Morva near Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus when he was shot.
Experts who examined Morva for his trial said he suffered from personality disorders that resulted in “odd beliefs.”
After his trial, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with delusional disorder, a more severe mental illness akin to schizophrenia.
His lawyers argued that Morva escaped and killed the men because he was under the delusion that he was going to die in jail of an imagined stomach disorder.
Morva was the first inmate executed in Virginia since officials made changes to the state’s protocol for executions.
Execution witnesses used to be able to watch inmates walk into the chamber and be strapped down. A curtain would then be closed so the public could not see the placement of the IV and heart monitors. After the curtain was reopened, inmates would be asked whether they have any final words before the chemicals started to flow.
In Morva’s execution, the curtain was closed when the witnesses entered the chamber and was not opened until he was strapped to the gurney and the IV lines were in place. Virginia used a three drug mixture, including midazolam and potassium chloride that it obtained from a compounding pharmacy whose identify remains secret under state law.
Morva’s lethal injection began about 9 p.m. after the warden read him the court order of his execution.
Morva, who was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, said “no” after he was asked whether he had any last words. A few minutes later, he could be heard speaking, but it was not clear what he was saying.
Shortly after the drugs began flowing, his stomach moved up and down quickly several times before he became motionless.
Morva is the third inmate to be executed since McAuliffe took office in 2014. In April, McAuliffe granted clemency to Ivan Teleguz, saying jurors in the murder-for-hire case were given false information that may have swayed sentencing.