Prosecutor Shows No Mercy: Flippantly Says Everyone Can Pay For A Diagnosis

Photo by Roanoke Times

Photo by Roanoke Times

(6-27-17) The Washington Post published an excellent story written by Ann E. Marimow  last weekend about Virginia’s plan to execute a 35 year -old man with delusional disorder. I wrote about the case last Friday and efforts to stop the execution.

William Morva is scheduled to be put to death on July 6th unless Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe commutes his death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The psychiatrist who initially examined him determined Morva had a personality disorder, but said the condition was not severe enough to have impaired his judgment.  When the case was appealed, the court appointed a psychiatrist who interviewed Morva while his legal team dug deeper into his background uncovering facts about his descent into madness previously not available to the court or jurors. The appellate  psychiatrist determined that Morva suffers from three subtypes of a serious mental illness called delusional disorder. A neuropsychologist who reviewed Morva’s records agreed.

How did Montgomery County (Va.) commonwealth’s attorney, Mary K. Pettitt, who helped prosecute Morva, react. She wrote to the governor urging Morva’s execution and dismissing the new diagnosis, according to the Post story, which quoted her writing:

“With enough time and motivation one can always find an expert to say what you want to hear but that doesn’t mean it is true or accurate.” 

Prosecutor Pettit

Prosecutor Pettit

Flippant? Insulting? Impertinent? Using that same logic, one could say the same about the prosecution’s witnesses, couldn’t they?

But wait, here’s some additional facts.

Contrary to Prosecutor Pettit’s accusation, no one shopped around for the “right expert.” The psychiatrist appointed by the federal court was the only expert appointed by a court after trial and the only expert to have interviewed Morva and considered his complete psychiatric history. The Attorney General’s Office (who represents Virginia on appeals) could have had Morva evaluated by their own expert after he was diagnosed with delusional disorder, but it never bothered to go back to the federal court and ask for that evaluation. After all, it was only a man’s life hanging in the balance.

Section C of the the American Bar Association says:

(c) The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.

You decide.

Morva’s hopes for a reprieve ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case. His defense team, Dawn Davison and Rob Lee, with the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, and Jon Sheldon, have created a persuasive website called Mercy For Morva to enlist the public’s help in pushing for a commutation.  In an email, Attorney Davison wrote:

First & foremost, we are asking people to call the Governor (804-786-2211) and ask him to commute William’s sentence and ensure he receives appropriate medical treatment. People can also email the Governor using this link on his website: Email the GovernorWe have a petition we are asking people to sign as well. People can follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Liking and sharing our posts will help us get the word out. Finally, we have a website with more information about William, videos, and links to all the above information:

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.