The executions of those who trespass against the norms of a society have been present for, well, as long as we have formed societies. The trespasses that warrant execution, however, change and sway with time.
In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court ruled that you had to be mentally competent to be executed.
Their exact wording was that the "executions of mentally retarded criminals are “cruel and unusual punishments” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment."
I just received an "Urgent Action Appeal" from Amnesty International. It was asking me to write to Virginian Governor Tim Kaine, asking him to stay the execution of a young man who is obviously incapable of understanding the reason for his punishment.
Levar Walton (a black man) was 18 when he killed an elderly white couple and another young black man in his hometown of Danville, Virginia, in 1996.
Walton had a long history of mental illness. He had been displaying signs of severe schizophrenia since he was 16. Before, during, and after the trial, the following took place:
- He told his family that he was "The Queen Bee", "Superman", and "Jesus Christ".
- He explained that he would come back to life as soon as he was executed, and that he would be able to bring his diseased grandfather back to life with him.
- His lawyer testified that "Levar Walton did not meaningfully assist us in preparing a defense... There were occasions where we could not tell whether he understood what we were saying to him." He also said that they "were unable to convince Mr. Walton that he would not come back to life", if executed.
- Psychologists suggested that Walton should be placed in a secure mental health facility.
- According to the Amnesty International message... When "asked whether he would plead guilty or not guilty, he refused to speak, but responded by writing the word "chair" on a piece of paper."
- Since conviction, the prison hospital has described him as "floridly psychotic".
- Six judges agreed that they had "substantial evidence that Percy Levar Walton does not understand that his execution will mean his death, defined as the end of his physical life."
This (obviously incompetent) young man is scheduled to be executed on June 10th, 2008.
I just sent the following message to the Governor of Virginia.
Dear Governor Tim Kaine,
I am writing you in regards to the pending execution of Levar Walton.
I understand that Levar Walton has been convicted of a horrendous crime. My strongest condolences go out to the friends and families of Elizabeth and Jesse Hendrick and Archie Moore. He should be detained, and incapacitated.
However, I face great concern with regards to the method of incapacitation. When considering Levar Walton’s long-term history of mental competency, it seems that he is incapable of understanding the reason (or severity) of this punishment. He is severely schizophrenic, and is not cognitively able to understand his punishment. He has repeatedly expressed the belief that he will be resurrected immediately following his sentencing, and his lawyers have stated that they do not believe that he understands the punishment he faces.
There is legal precedent set that would support the decision to stop the execution of Levar Walton. In their decision on Atkins v. Virginia the Supreme Court decided that it was cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore in violation of the eighth amendment, to execute those who were mentally retarded. Also, your predecessor Governor Gilmore previously stopped the execution of Calvin Swann, based on a very similar case of schizophrenia.
The foundation of a civilized society is compassion for its members which cannot be considered competent. It is the human desire to care for one another. I urge you to use your powers as Governor, and stop the execution of Levar Walton. It is the only ethical and legal decision possible.
I urge you all to take 5 minutes, and send a similar email. Copy and paste mine, for all I care. Just let this man know that all eyes are on him, and that he needs to consider his decision carefully.