John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, called for clemency for Percy Lavar Walton, a Virginia inmate scheduled to be executed on June 8. Walton is a psychotic schizophrenic who has suffered with severe mental illness since adolescence. He is on death row for three murders he committed when he was 18 years old. Whitehead writes:

Dubbed “Crazy Horse” by prison officials, Walton … is scarcely conscious of the fate that awaits him. While others on death row bide their time in counting down to their final hours, Walton spends his time amassing a large pile of salt, pepper and sugar packets in his prison cell.

And while state officials may view Walton’s pending execution as the final form of punishment, Walton does not see execution as the end of his life. Instead, he believes that his execution will restore life, bringing him, his grandfather and his victims back to life. During his sentencing hearing, he reportedly laughed, waved to family members in the courtroom and wrote incoherent notes to his attorney.

Clearly, this is not a sane man. Nor does he seem to have sufficient mental acuity to view his pending state-enforced death as the ultimate punishment. Most medical experts concur… . Two independent doctors have officially diagnosed him as schizophrenic. One doctor noted that Walton has continually suffered from severe depression, an inability to focus and moderate to severe levels of insanity. Another doctor pointed out that he presents symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, bizarre behavior and positive formal thought disorder. State psychiatrist Dr. Patricia General described Walton as “floridly psychotic”… .

Walton’s delusions are so far-fetched that he has claimed to be everyone from his own father to the King of Hearts, Superman, Queen Bee and Jesus Christ. He insists that the Bible was written about him and that he hears voices and sees a disturbing image of a face with a fishhook in its eye. Walton also believes that if he closes his eyes, he can become invisible.

No truly civilized and humane society executes the helpless. To do so is to resort to barbarism. There must be lines beyond which we will not cross, even in the name of seeking justice or a greater good.

(Rutherford Institute, Commentary, May 24, 2006). See Mental Illness and New Voices.