VA. Governor Commutes Death Penalty for Mentally Ill Man

Gov. Kaine changed the fate of Percy Walton, convicted of killing three people & given the death penalty for each one, from death to a life with no possibility of parole.  He says Walton is incapable of understanding his punishment due to mental illness.  Kaine believes Walton is schizophrenic now but was not at the time of the crimes.  So if you commit a crime while sane & later go nuts on death row, you are no longer eligible to die at the hands of the state?  For the record, I am opposed to the death penalty, so I’m happy at least this one person will not be executed.

But here’s my question—why don’t more death row inmates go crazy in such conditions & have their death sentence at least re-visited?  Kaine is known to be against the death penalty which is probably at the heart of this event.

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3 Responses to VA. Governor Commutes Death Penalty for Mentally Ill Man

  1. laurabethnielsen says:

    They do go crazy. And, most governors don’t care. And, frankly I think awaiting a known death date is cruel and unusual.

  2. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    Judy — The answer to your question is yes. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional under the 8th amendment to execute persons whose mental illness prevents them from understanding the nature of their punishment, even if they were quite sane when they committed their crimes. This has created quite an ethical dilemma for prison psychiatrists — do you treat a mentally ill death row inmate, knowing that your success will lead to your patient’s death?

  3. laurabethnielsen says:

    Also, what if you get it on meds and not off meds? This is just a more dramatic way of stating Jeff’s point —

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