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Mentally Ill Offender in Virginia
Execution Date: Governor Kaine Commutes Death Sentence to Life Without Parole
Governor's statement: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/MediaRelations/NewsReleases/viewRelease.cfm?id=680
Letters Asking for Clemency
Briefs, Petitions, etc.
Percy Levar Walton is a severely mentally ill man on Virginia’s death row. He is psychotic, suffering from a severe form of schizophrenia. Despite ample evidence of his mental illness, he pled guilty to three capital murder charges, and was sentenced to three death sentences, three life sentences, and a term of 28 years. No court has ever directly considered the question of his mental illness.
The murders for which Mr. Walton was sentenced to death occurred in 1996, when he was 18 years old. He was convicted in the shooting deaths of 80-year-old Jessie Kendrick, and 81-year-old Elizabeth Kendrick. In the same trial, but a separate incident, Walton was convicted in the shooting death of Archie Moore. Walton was seen driving Moore’s car. In a search of Walton’s car, the police found Moore’s diploma and ATM card.
Percy Walton’s Behavior (taken from a summary by Walton’s attorney, and the evaluations of Dr. Gur and Dr. Pandurangi)
Walton’s parents divorced when he was four years old. He has a history of concussions and head injuries, including ones at 3-years-old, 8 and 13. Walton began drinking and using marijuana at 16-years-old. Evidence of Walton’s mental illness began well before the crime and continues to this day. Clear symptoms of psychosis began with adolescence. Family members remember Walton being irritable, talking to himself, as well as smiling inappropriately. He also stopped taking showers and neglecting his hygiene. It is important to note that Walton has a family history of mental illness on both his father’s and mother’s side.
During the days on which he committed the crimes for which he was convicted, Walton was seen walking up and down the street talking to himself. During the months following his arrest, he sat in his prison cell and in court smiling, laughing, and rocking back and forth; he insisted that his family members were people that they were not; he thought he was Jesus and that the Bible was written about him. At varying times he has claimed that he is superman, the “queen bee,” the “king of hearts,” a caveman and a famous music star. During the days preceding his guilty plea, he insisted that his execution would immediately bring him, his grandfather, and his victims back to life. During his plea colloquy, he was unable to answer simple questions, such as his age or whether or not he had talked to his lawyers about entering a guilty plea. During his sentencing hearing, he laughed inappropriately, scribbled nonsensical notes to his attorneys, and waved to his family members in the audience. Since his incarceration on death row, he spends his days and nights banging on his cell door and walls; he continues to laugh and smile inappropriately; he asks fellow inmates if they hear the voices that he does; he describes a face with a fishhook in its eye that he sees in his wall; he orders 20 televisions at a time from the prison canteen; he claims to be related to rap stars; he repeatedly asks when he is going to be moved to another prison or when he is going home; and he regularly reports that his relatives will soon arrive to take him home, and prepares accordingly.
Evidence and History of Mental Illness
Despite this record, no competency hearing has ever been held in Walton’s case. Dr. Stanton Samenow concluded, before trial, that Levar was “decompensating,” irrational and illogical, and further recommended that he be hospitalized for an in-patient evaluation, the trial court ignored this recommendation. In fact, there was no mental health testimony presented at any stage of the trial proceedings. Every expert who has conducted appropriate testing and an adequate evaluation since that time has determined that Walton is psychotic and actively schizophrenic, and that he has been so since he was approximately 16 years old.
In two separate examinations Doctors Anand Pandurangi and Ruben Gur both, separately, diagnosed Walton as schizophrenic. Doctor Pandurangi formed the opinion that Walton suffered from the disorganized or hebephrenic form of schizophrenia. He concluded that the illness began around 16, and was probably precipitated by substance abuse, however the substance abuse would only speed up the symptoms, not create them.
Dr. Gur concluded that Walton suffered from severe chronic schizophrenia, probably of a paranoid or disorganized type. Gur noted 4 of 5 negative symptoms of schizophrenia (affect (including deficits in facial expression, eye contact, gestures, and voice pattern), alogia (Not talking or making only short statements), anhedonia (An absence of the ability to experience pleasure. Usually a symptom of severe depression), and attention (inability to focus on tasks) all with moderate to severe levels of insanity, and he suspected the presence of avolition (when a person lacks energy, spontaneity and initiative). Gur also noted all 4 positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, bizarre behavior, and positive formal thought disorder).
Dr. Gur visited and evaluated Walton again in May of 2003. After two visits Gur concluded that Walton continues to suffer from schizophrenia and is currently in a psychotic state. Due to the lack of treatment, Walton’s condition is even more severe than in Gur’s initial visits in 1999. Dr. Gur further concludes that Walton does not realize that his execution would mean the end of his life.
The United States Supreme Court has recently ruled unconstitutional the execution of offenders with mental retardation. The Court recognized that no valid penological purpose is served in executing persons whose disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment and impulse control mean they do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct ( Atkins v. Virginia, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 2244 (2002)). Similar concerns exist in cases of the severely mentally ill.
Letters Asking for Clemency
- European Union demarche urging clemency in the case of Percy Walton.
- Letter from the Council of Europe asking for clemency on behalf of Percy Walton
- Government of Switzerland - letter asking for clemency on May 19, 2003 signed by Ambassador of Switzerland, Christian Blickenstorfer.
Briefs, Petitions, etc.
For briefs involving other mentally ill inmates click