Va. Gov. Halts Execution, Commutes Death Sentence

Percy Levar Walton was scheduled for execution tomorrow. Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine today commuted his sentence to life without parole.

Walton has a history of mental isslness that has gotten progressively worse while in prison. Kaine determined Walton is mentally incompetent, not fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it. While Kaine issued temporary stays for Walton in the past, today he issued his final decision and commuted the sentence.

Gov. Kaine's statement is here.

"After reviewing the information, I was compelled to conclude that Walton was seriously mentally impaired and that he met the Supreme Court's definition of mental incompetence. Because one could not reasonably conclude that Walton was fully aware of the punishment he was about to suffer and why he was to suffer it, I decided that his execution could not proceed at that time.

...."Over the course of those 18 months, there has been no discernible improvement in Walton's condition and no evidence that his mental impairment is temporary. Walton differs in fundamental ways from other death row offenders. He lives in a self-imposed state of isolation that includes virtually no interest in receiving or understanding information. Walton communicates only infrequently, almost invariably in response to direct questions, and those responses are minimal in nature. He has nothing in his cell other than a mattress, a pillow and a blanket. He shows no interest in contact with the outside world and has no television, radio, magazines, books or stationery. He has no personal effects of any kind. This minimal existence has been in evidence for the past five years.

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    Good for Tim Kaine (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by bjorn on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:40:54 PM EST
    I hope other Governors are watching and will think about doing the same. It was the right thing to do.

    Wow. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Addison on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:50:44 PM EST
    I can't believe it.

    I'm happily surprised by my governor again. I'm against the death penalty, and that's increasingly in tune with Americans in general, but I still though this guy would die.

    Perhaps the next step for VA should be to re-institutionalize the mentally ill, to get them off the streets and/or get them the treatment/services they need.

    Probably asking too much. In any case, thanks Governor Kaine.

    Why? (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:59:07 PM EST
    He was elected in spite of the fact that he's is personally opposed to the death penalty.

    I still thought this one would slide by... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Addison on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:30:58 PM EST
    ...I was wrong. Happily so.

    He should have stepped in 2 weeks (none / 0) (#13)
    by Joan in VA on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 09:11:39 PM EST
    ago to stop the execution of a mentally deficient man. Also, there is an troubling disparity in who gets the death penalty here. He should abide by his beliefs which are mostly shared by those who elected him. He will have to weather the sh*tstorm anyway for this so in for a penny, in for a pound.

    In a supreme irony (none / 0) (#2)
    by dianem on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:43:19 PM EST
    If he's mentally ill, he should be treated. But if they treat him, will he be subject to being executed again? And did whatever is wrong with him have anything to do with his crime? At this point, it seems like he's already dead in any way that matters, but there are a lot of questions.

    Why is it (none / 0) (#5)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:53:23 PM EST
    better, or less bad, if the person is aware they're going to be killed by the state?  I don't get the logic.

    it's an issue of competency (none / 0) (#12)
    by txpublicdefender on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:57:28 PM EST
    The Supreme Court says that if a person does not understand that he is being executed and that it is being done as a punishment for the crime committed, it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute him.  

    Is Kaine up for re-election? (none / 0) (#8)
    by angie on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:04:19 PM EST
    If so, I'm happy to donate.

    VA Governors (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:43:55 PM EST
    are limited to 1 term.

    Heh (none / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:53:04 PM EST
    Well, if Kaine wouldn't have executed Hitler, I'm not surprised he wouldn't execute this guy!

    VP Selection? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Spike on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 09:15:26 PM EST
    I think Kaine was the first gov to endorse Obama and VA is obviously a swing state in this election. Would this decision help or hurt his chances of being chosen as VP? What are the politics of capital punishment these days?

    Kaine wimped out (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 10:18:37 PM EST
    If Walton were really insane, the Supreme Court has already ruled that he could not be executed.  The gutsy thing to do would be to treat him and render him sane and THEN commute his sentence, rather than using his mental illness as an excuse for the commutation.

    the guy's been dead for (none / 0) (#16)
    by cpinva on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:58:54 AM EST
    5 years now, gov. kaine is merely recognizing that fact officially.

    i like gov. kaine, and voted for him. i also see the difficulty he faces, with respect to the death penalty; he stated that, though he himself (because of his catholic beliefs) was personally opposed to it, he would abide by the law, with regards to its application in va, should he be elected.

    what he didn't say is that he would make any concerted effort to stop it in va. one-term gov's have little time, and though it would be nice, it won't happen in my lifetime. he's had to focus on more mundane issues, like the state budget. with a republican dominated, part-time legislature, that's been a time consuming exercise all by itself.

    that said, i do appreciate his efforts. you have to be smart enough to pick your battles. while i don't support sen. obama, i do believe gov. kaine, or sen. candidate mark warner (former, very succesfull gov. of va) would both make fine vp choices.