Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Thursday delayed the execution of a triple killer just more than an hour before he was scheduled to be put to death amid claims he is mentally retarded and insane.
Kaine’s decision came moments after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay of execution.
Percy Walton, 27, had been scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center for the 1996 murders of three neighbors in Danville.
Kaine delayed the execution for six months to allow for an independent evaluation of Walton’s mental condition and competence.
“It would be imprudent to either proceed with the execution or grant clemency without further review,” Kaine said.
Under the governor’s action, Walton’s execution will be delayed until Dec. 8.
Unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded
The Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane and mentally retarded, but left it up to the states to define retardation. In their petition to the high court, Walton’s attorneys argued that Walton is suffering from schizophrenia and is incapable of understanding the concept of death, therefore making him ineligible for execution. In a clemency petition to Kaine, they also argued that Walton is mentally retarded.
The Virginia attorney general’s office has argued that intelligence scores taken when Walton was 17 and 18 place him above the accepted range for mental retardation, though other evaluations were conflicting. They also refute Walton’s claims that he is insane.
Walton pleaded guilty in 1997 to the murders of Jessie and Elizabeth Kendrick, a couple in their 80s, and 33-year-old Archie Moore. The victims were robbed and shot in the head; Moore’s body was found stuffed in a closet, his corpse doused in cologne.
Victim’s sister: ‘He was sane’
Elizabeth Kendrick’s sister, 85-year-old Irene Jurscaga, said she thinks Walton is faking his behavior in order to save his own life. She had planned to witness the execution.
“He must be taken out of society,” Jurscaga said, sobbing. “He was sane. He was just on a rampage.”
But the Kendricks’ daughter, Barbara Case, 68, of Brandon, Miss., said she has forgiven Walton for murdering her parents and is ambivalent about his fate.
“I’d be just as happy if he spent the rest of his life locked up thinking about what he did each and every day,” she said.