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Commutation in Virginia!

Greetings All,

THANK YOU very much to all who took action over the weekend and yesterday to ask Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to commute the death sentence of Percy Walton, who was scheduled to be executed tonight – 6/10/2008 – at 9pm for his murders of Jessie Kendrick, Elizabeth Kendrick and Archie Moore. Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Kaine commuted Percy Walton’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, citing Walton’s severe mental illness. You can read the Governor’s statement here.

Please take a moment to thank Governor Kaine for this action.

Gov. Tim Kaine
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, Virginia 23218
Phone: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351

You can e-mail Gov. Kaine via his web page
.

A NOTE ABOUT GRASSROOTS CLEMENCY ACTION STRATEGY

One person wrote me on Friday asking why we did not put the e-mail contact info in the action alert. We did refer to it knowing that some folks might look it up for themselves, but in order to stress the urgency of this matter we felt the more personal/tangible contact of a fax and/or a phone call would have greater impact. Some person in the office would be forced to deal with it. E-mail is much easier to dispense with, or to disregard altogether. Therefore, if given the choice, we will always recommend (in order of perceived impact) first a hand written note sent in the postal mail, and when time is short, a fax and a phone call. One person can triple their impact by doing all three!

From Amnesty International:

11 June 2008

Further information on UA 123/08 (09 May 2008) – Death penalty / Legal concern

USA (Virginia)
Percy Levar Walton (m), black, aged 29

Levar Walton has had the death sentence against him commuted
by the Governor of Virginia, Timothy Kaine. Walton, who
suffers from serious mental illness, including paranoid
schizophrenia, was due to be executed in Virginia on 10
June. He was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murders of
an elderly white couple, Elizabeth and Jesse Hendrick, aged
81 and 80, and a 33-year-old black man, Archie Moore, in the
town of Danville in November 1996.

On 9 June, Governor Timothy Kaine issued a statement that
“the question of Walton’s mental status is of the utmost
importance in assessing whether the Commonwealth [of
Virginia] may carry out his death sentence. For this reason,
the court system has wrestled with the question of whether
Walton’s mental capacity imposes a bar to his execution.
Notwithstanding consistent decisions upholding his
conviction, the courts found it necessary to carefully
examine whether Walton’s death sentence could be carried out
consistent with the U.S. Constitution.”

Governor Timothy Kaine noted that in 2006, when he had
previously delayed Walton’s execution so that his competence
could be evaluated, “I was compelled to conclude that
Walton was seriously mentally impaired and that he met the
Supreme Court’s definition of mental incompetence. Because
one could not reasonably conclude that Walton was fully
aware of the punishment he was about to suffer and why he
was to suffer it, I decided that his execution could not
proceed at that time.”

Governor Timothy Kaine said that he had concluded that
commutation was not appropriate at that time because it was
“within the realm of possibility” that Levar Walton’s
mental health could improve. However, in the time since
then, “there has been no discernible improvement in
Walton’s condition and no evidence that his mental
impairment is temporary. Walton differs in fundamental ways
from other death row offenders. He lives in a self-imposed
state of isolation that includes virtually no interest in
receiving or understanding information. Walton communicates
only infrequently, almost invariably in response to direct
questions, and those responses are minimal in nature. He has
nothing in his cell other than a mattress, a pillow and a
blanket. He shows no interest in contact with the outside
world and has no television, radio, magazines, books or
stationery. He has no personal effects of any kind. This
minimal existence has been in evidence for the past five
years.”

Governor Timothy Kaine concluded that “In light of this
information, I am again compelled to find that one cannot
reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the
punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it.
Given the extended period of time over which Walton has
exhibited this lack of mental competence, I must conclude
that a commutation of his sentence to life in prison without
possibility of parole is now the only constitutionally
appropriate course of action.”

Governor Timothy Kaine stated that although Walton’s mental
incompetence was enough on its own to warrant commutation,
there were other issues that he had considered when making
the clemency decision. He noted that since Walton’s trial
the US Supreme Court had ruled that the execution of someone
with mental retardation or someone who was under 18 years
old at the time of the crime was unconstitutional. Walton
was less than two months past his 18th birthday when he
committed the crimes, and was already suffering from mental
illness at the time. Governor Timothy Kaine also noted that
in his most recent IQ test, Walton’s IQ had been assessed at
66, within the mental retardation range.

In reaching his decision to commute the death sentence to
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,
Governor Timothy Kaine said “I remain mindful of the
terrible injustice that Walton perpetrated against Jessie E.
Kendrick, Elizabeth W. Kendrick, and Archie D. Moore, Jr. My
thoughts and prayers are with the families of these
honorable people.”

Many thanks to all who sent appeals. Please consider going online to send a thank-you message to Gov. Kaine.

———————————-
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement
that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including
contact information and stop action date (if applicable).
Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Email: uan@aiusa.org
http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566

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