Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine commuted the death sentence of Percy Walton (pictured) to life in prison without parole. Kaine cancelled the execution, scheduled for 9pm on June 10, because “one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it”. The Governor found “that Walton’s clemency petition presented significant evidence that Walton had schizophrenia, that such a mental illness can cause serious deterioration of mental competence, and that Walton’s mental state had deteriorated since 2003 such that there was more than a minimal chance that Walton no longer knew why he was to be executed or was even aware of the final punishment he was about to receive.”

After over two years of tests and observation, the Governor found that “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.” The Governor added, “While he was not insane at the time of his crimes, there are strong indications that his mental illness started prior to the murders.” He also cited recent evidence of Walton’s possible mental retardation. The Governor cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Ford v. Wainwright that “forbids the execution of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it.”

Since taking office, Kaine has allowed five executions, and delayed another inmate’s briefly. Second only to Texas, Virginia has executed 99 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
(J. Markon, “Va. Governor Commutes Death Sentence”, Washington Post, June 10, 2008; Gov. Kaine’s Statement on the scheduled execution of Percy Lavar Walton, June 9, 2008). See Mental Illness and Clemency.