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William Charles Morva - Virginia Execution - July 6, 2017
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Thread: William Charles Morva - Virginia Execution - July 6, 2017

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    William Charles Morva - Virginia Execution - July 6, 2017


    Deputy Corporal Eric Sutphin




    Summary of Offense:

    William Morva was convicted of the capital murders of a hospital security officer and a Montgomery County deputy sheriff on August 21, 2006. Morva had been held for about a year in jail awaiting an August 23 trial on burglary-related charges, attempted robbery and a firearms violation On August 19, he complained to jail personnel that he had injured his leg and forearm.

    Early the next morning he was taken to the Montgomery Regional Hospital under the escort of Russell Quesenberry, a deputy sheriff. Morva was wearing waist chains, but his supposedly injured arm was not secured. After Morva was treated he asked to use the bathroom. While inside he removed a metal toilet paper holder from the wall and when Quesenberry entered Morva struck him with it, breaking his nose, fracturing his face and knocking him unconscious. Morva grabbed the deputy’s .40-caliber, semi-automatic Glock handgun. After leaving the bathroom he encountered Derrick McFarland, an unarmed hospital security guard. Morva fatally shot him in the face as he attempted to surrender.

    On the morning of August 21, Morva was spotted near a paved bicycling and walking path in Montgomery County known as Huckleberry Trail. Cpl. Eric Sutphin, a Montgomery County deputy sheriff, was in the area looking for Morva. A witness saw Morva and Sutphin on the trail. A few minutes later he heard two gunshots. Another witness heard shouting followed by two gunshots and saw Sutphin fall to the ground. He died from a gunshot wound in the back of his head.

    Morva was captured later that day by officers who found him lying in a ditch. Quesenberry’s gun was found on the ground near where Morva had been hiding.

    Morva has been on death row since March 14, 2008.

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    A Blacksburg man who will stand trial on three capital murder charges in just a month asked a judge Friday to allow him to find new counsel.

    William Charles Morva, who will be 26 in a week, told Circuit Court Judge Ray Grubbs in a hearing Friday that he has contacted nine organizations in an attempt to find new representation for his upcoming trial.

    He didn't name the organizations but referenced a letter he wrote to Grubbs on Dec. 7 to explain that he had complications with his court-appointed defense attorneys, Tony Anderson, Tom Blaylock and Melissa Friedman.

    "Their beliefs for the outcome of my trial, their beliefs in general, are so different from mine that I don't believe they could defend someone like me," Morva said Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

    Grubbs denied the request and said Anderson, Blaylock and Friedman -- who didn't comment on Morva's statements -- will remain as Morva's counsel.

    Morva is accused of fatally shooting Derrick McFarland, a security guard at Montgomery Regional Hospital, the morning of Aug. 20, 2006, as he escaped from a deputy's custody at the hospital.

    He is accused of fatally shooting Cpl. Eric Sutphin of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office the next morning as Sutphin took part in a search for Morva on the Huckleberry Trail near the Virginia Tech campus.

    Tech canceled classes on the first day of school because of the manhunt, which lasted about 37 hours. Blacksburg police captured Morva the afternoon of Aug. 21 in a brushy area just off the trail.

    Morva faces a third capital murder charge because he is accused of killing more than one person in less than three years.

    If he is convicted of any one of the capital murder charges, he will face a sentence of either life in prison or the death penalty.

    His trial is scheduled to begin March 4 in Washington County Circuit Court in Abingdon and last at least two weeks.

    Grubbs decided to move the trial out of Montgomery County after three days of jury selection in September.

    After the required pool of potential jurors had been chosen, Grubbs said it was apparent to him that too many in the jury pool had ties to people involved with the case.

    It will be the first trial moved out of Montgomery County in nearly 30 years.

    Grubbs on Friday told Morva he would deny a request to postpone the trial so Morva could find new counsel or a request to dismiss his current counsel.

    "When this court makes an appointment," Grubbs told him, "it does not take that appointment lightly."

    "I realize that, your honor," said the well-spoken Morva, who has let his shaggy brown hair grow to his shoulders and is now sporting a full beard.

    "They have a reputation. They have a reputation that has been earned," Grubbs said of Anderson, Blaylock and Friedman. "You have the best there is, and there's no improvement."

    There was high security in the courtroom Friday as Morva made his appearance. Of 10 uniformed deputies in the courtroom, eight stood along the wall behind the defense desk where Morva sat with his attorneys.

    Also at Friday's hearing, the defense and prosecution argued over questions potential jurors will have to answer on a questionnaire as part of the jury selection process. Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch objected to some of the defense's proposed questions, saying they force potential jurors to speculate on what the evidence in the case would be.

    Grubbs asked the defense to draft a new questionnaire within 10 days

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    The capital-murder trial of former Chesterfield County resident William Morva, charged with killing two men during a jail escape, is set to begin Tuesday. Defense attorneys think this time they'll be able to seat a jury.

    The previous attempt to try Morva, 26, ended in September when a Montgomery County judge ruled that any verdict delivered by a Montgomery jury would be suspect because of all the local publicity surrounding the killings and Morva's escape.

    The second attempted trial will be held in Abingdon, where Judge Ray Grubbs moved the case after three days of trying to find a suitably unbiased jury in Montgomery.

    "I don't think there was as much publicity about this case down there" in Abingdon, defense attorney Tom Blaylock said. "I think we might have a jury in two days." Montgomery prosecutor Brad Finch, who is seeking the death penalty, agreed.

    Morva is charged with capital murder in the 2006 shooting deaths of unarmed hospital guard Derrick McFarland, 32, and Montgomery sheriff's Cpl. Eric Sutphin, 40.

    Morva, who grew up in the Midlothian area before his father moved the family to Blacksburg, was in the Montgomery County Jail in August 2006 awaiting trial on robbery charges when he made his escape. A massive, 36-hour manhunt for Morva prompted Virginia Tech to shut down on the first day of fall semester classes and resulted in students fleeing in a panic from one campus building after someone reported seeing Morva inside.

    Investigators say Morva cracked a deputy's face with a toilet-paper dispenser and escaped from Montgomery Regional Hospital, where he had been taken for injuries early in the morning of Aug. 20, 2006. An eyewitness testified that Morva shot an unarmed McFarland and fled the hospital. A day later, Morva allegedly shot and killed Sutphin, who was on a hiking trail near the Virginia Tech campus looking for the escapee.

    The trial is scheduled to run through March 14, but Finch said it might not take that long. He declined to discuss what kind of case he will put on, but some of the testimony likely to be heard was previewed in November 2006 during a preliminary hearing in a Montgomery court.

    In that hearing, Deputy Russell Quesenberry, who had taken Morva to the hospital, testified that Morva overpowered him in a hospital restroom and knocked him unconscious. When he came to, his .40-caliber pistol was gone. A patient, Jennifer Preston, testified that she saw Morva shoot McFarland dead as the security guard tried to calm him. Johnathan Chisum, a physician's assistant, testified that he saw Morva then shoot the exit doors open and flee.

    Finch presented no testimony about Sutphin's death during the preliminary hearing. But authorities say Morva shot Sutphin on an isolated hiking trail in Blacksburg early Aug. 21 as Sutphin took part in the search for Morva. Deputies found a weapon not far from where they captured Morva.

    A jury convicted Morva of the robbery charges in March. He is serving a 38-year prison term.

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    The jury recommended the death penalty for William Morva today.

    The jury convicted Morva, 26, formerly of Chesterfield County, of capital murder Tuesday in connection with the August 2006 deaths of hospital guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County sheriff's deputy Eric Sutphin. Morva was an inmate at the Montgomery jail and had escaped a deputy's custody when he killed the two.

    "Lock that jail and throw away the key," attorney Tony Anderson said.

    In his closing argument today, Montgomery prosecutor Brad Finch urged jurors to give Morva the death penalty, arguing that he would constitute a danger to society if left to live.

    "What makes this particular defendant so dangerous is that this defendant is extremely intelligent and extremely violent," Finch said. He noted that Morva shot McFarland, 32, in the face from two feet, even though the security guard was unarmed, and Sutphin, 40, was shot in the back of the head.

    The jury began its deliberations at 12:30 p.m.

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    William Morva will return to Montgomery County for formal sentencing Monday

    After a week of intense testimony in March, Morva was found guilty on three counts of capital murder. A jury recommended the death penalty.

    Morva killed hospital security guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County Sheriff's deputy Corporal Eric Sutphin in August 2006 after escaping police custody at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

    On top of his death sentence the jury gave Morva five years for escape, five years for assault and battery of a police officer and additional years for firearms charges.

    Formal sentencing is set for 9:00 a.m. and several hours have been set aside to hear from the victims' and Morva's families

    http://www.wdbj7.com/Global/story.asp?S=8538087

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    June 23, 2008

    Virginia Judge Sentences Jail Escapee to Death in Guard, Deputy Slaying

    CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) – A jail escapee who set off a manhunt near Virginia Tech's campus by killing a hospital guard and later, a sheriff's deputy, was sentenced to death Monday despite his attorney's pleas for leniency.

    William Morva, 26, was convicted of capital murder in March for the August 2006 killings. The jury recommended the death penalty, and Monday it was imposed by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs.

    Before sentencing, defense attorney Thomas Blaylock pleaded for mercy. Morva himself then said, "I think there are very few people in this whole courtroom who understand what that means," prompting an angry outburst from the widow of one of his victims.

    "You didn't show no mercy when you killed my husband. ... You deserve to burn in hell," Cindy McFarland yelled before being escorted out of the courtroom briefly.

    Grubbs told Morva he was imposing the death penalty because "lives have been shattered" by crimes that were committed "all for no other reason than your own selfish motives."

    Morva was in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges when he was taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury. He overpowered a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy in the hospital and used the deputy's pistol to shoot unarmed security guard Derrick McFarland, 32.

    He shot Sheriff's Cpl. Eric Sutphin, 40, one day later on a walking trail near the Virginia Tech campus, which had been shut down on the first day of classes during a police manhunt for him.

    The trial was moved 100 miles away because of difficulty seating a jury.

    Jurors heard emotional prosecution testimony about the two men's lives. Family members and those who witnessed McFarland's killing testified that they still suffer from nightmares.

    The defense portrayed Morva as an eccentric free spirit with a personality disorder. As his mother wept, Morva made a rambling statement in court Monday in which he referred to himself as "Nemo, a slave name" and said he was "an innocent person."

    Grubbs denied a defense motion to set aside the verdict.

    "Everyone in this courtroom today is here because of a profound tragedy of your making," Grubbs told Morva.

    Blaylock argued that Morva would be punished enough by life in prison without parole, the only other sentencing option for a capital murder conviction in Virginia. Defense attorneys had said Morva's killing spree was spawned by a fear of returning to jail.

    But Grubbs affirmed the jury's decision to agree with Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch that Morva's crimes met two legal conditions to qualify for the most severe punishment: presenting a danger to society and depravity of mind.

    Grubbs set an execution date of Oct. 21, but Morva will have an automatic appeal.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,370281,00.html

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    William Morva’s execution date delayed

    Convicted murderer William Morva will not be executed on Tuesday, October 21st as previously scheduled.

    Doug Robelen, the Chief Deputy Clerk with the Virginia Supreme Court tells WSLS that Morva's attorney, Tony Anderson, filed a motion asking for an extension with the court back on September 29th.

    The state's highest court agreed to issue a stay of execution on October 8th, and granted Anderson, as well as Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch, an extension to file additional documents for Morva’s appeal.

    When WSLS called Anderson to check on the appeal, he told us that the Virginia Supreme Court issued the stay of execution a week or 2 ago.

    Under Virginia law, all death penalty convictions receive an automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court. Morva’s appeal has not been heard yet.

    A jury convicted Morva of capital murder back in March, for the killings of Montgomery County Sheriff's Corporal Eric Supthin and Montgomery County Regional Hospital security guard Derrick McFarland. Jurors recommended the death penalty.

    The judge in the case agreed with the jury's recommendation in June. Under Virginia law, once a jury recommends the death penalty, a judge has only 2 options: 1.) Agree with the jury's recommendation; or 2.) Sentence the convicted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    A criminal justice professor that WSLS spoke with after Morva's sentencing believes Anderson will likely focus on whether Morva’s constitutional rights were violated during the trial.

    (Source: WSLS News)

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    June 5, 2009

    Va. Supreme Court hears killer’s appeal

    By Frank Green
    The Richmond Times-Dispatch

    William Morva, a Montgomery County Jail escapee who killed a deputy sheriff and a hospital security guard in 2006, took his appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court yesterday.

    A lawyer for Morva, 27, told the justices that Morva's trial judge erred by not appointing an expert who could have countered prosecutors' arguments that Morva was so dangerous that the death penalty was required.

    While awaiting trial on robbery charges, Morva was taken to Montgomery Regional Hospital where on Aug. 20, 2006, he escaped a deputy's custody, stole the deputy's gun and shot to death Derrick McFarland, 32, an unarmed security guard.

    The next day, in Blacksburg, he fatally shot Eric Sutphin, 40, a deputy sheriff.

    Those convicted of capital murder in Virginia can be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or to death, should the judge or jury find the crime so vile it warrants execution or because of the "future dangerousness" of the defendant.

    The underpinning of the commonwealth's case against Morva was that he could escape and kill again or kill behind bars, David Bruck, one of Morva's lawyers, argued yesterday.

    The expert, forensic psychologist Mark D. Cunningham, could have performed a scientific risk assessment of the likelihood of Morva escaping or committing acts of violence if sent to prison for life, Bruck said.

    Without such testimony, the jury was likely to have "overpredicted dangerousness," said Bruck, a professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse.

    For instance, Cunningham could have told the jury that no staff member of the Virginia Department of Corrections has been killed by an inmate since 1975, Bruck said.

    But Steven A. Witmer, a senior assistant attorney general, said the court did appoint a forensic psychologist, a neurologist and a mitigation specialist. "It cannot be said there has been a fundamentally unfair trial," he said.

    Justice Donald W. Lemons, however, said that if you accept the proposition that the issue was Morva's propensity for violence in prison, "none of the experts that were appointed were able to deal with that issue."

    Morva is seeking a new sentencing hearing. No ruling is expected before September.

    http://www.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/local/crime/article/MORV05_20090604-221603/271934/

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    The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld William Charles Morva's capital murder convictions and death sentences for the deaths of Derrick McFarland and Cpl. Eric Sutphin.

    In a 5-2 decision Friday, the court rejected Morva's claim that he should have been allowed to present an expert's testimony on whether he would endanger guards or fellow inmates if the jury sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

    Morva was convicted of three counts of capital murder in March 2008. The jury recommended the death penalty, which was imposed by the judge in June 2008.

    In Friday's opinion, "a majority of the Court held that Judge Grubbs did not err in denying Morva's request to appoint Dr. Mark D. Cunningham as a prison life risk assessment expert. The majority agreed with Judge Grubbs that Dr. Cunningham failed to sufficiently demonstrate that his testimony would be particularized to Morva and the likely effect of incarceration on him, rather than merely being a general assessment of how most prisoners react to conditions of imprisonment at highly secure facilities. Four other justices joined in the majority opinion, which also found no error in any other aspect of Morva's trial and sentencing."

    Here is the full Supreme Court of Virginia opinion in Morva's death penalty appeal:

    The Supreme Court of Virginia today released an opinion affirming the capital murder convictions and death sentences imposed on William Charles Morva for the August 2006 capital murders of Derrick McFarland, a security guard at Montgomery Regional Hospital, and Cpl. Eric Sutphin of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department. McFarland was killed when he went to the assistance a sheriff's deputy who was struggling with Morva, a prisoner who had been taken to the hospital for treatment, as Morva was attempting to escape. During the struggle, Morva took the deputy's weapon and used it to kill McFarland. After Morva fled from the hospital, he shot Sutphin, who was involved in a large scale manhunt for Morva, when Sutphin encountered Morva near the head of the Huckleberry Trail in Blacksburg. Morva was captured a short time later hiding in the woods not far from where Sutphin was killed.

    Morva was convicted of three counts of capital murder in March 2008. The jury recommended the death penalty, which was imposed by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Ray W. Grubbs in June 2008.

    Morva's appeal was argued before the Supreme Court during its June 2009 session. By law, all capital murder cases where a sentence of death is imposed are automatically appealed to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals of Virginia, which normally conducts the first review of criminal cases.

    During oral argument of the appeal, Morva's attorney David Bruck, director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, a resource for death penalty defense attorneys that is affiliated with the Washington and Lee University School of Law, focused his arguments mostly on whether an expert on risk assessment in prison life should have been appointed to assist Morva in his defense by presenting testimony to rebut the prosecution's claims that Morva would present a future danger even if sentenced to life in prison.

    In today's opinion, authored by Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn, a majority of the Court held that Judge Grubbs did not err in denying Morva's request to appoint Dr. Mark D. Cunningham as a prison life risk assessment expert. The majority agreed with Judge Grubbs that Dr. Cunningham failed to sufficiently demonstrate that his testimony would be particularized to Morva and the likely effect of incarceration on him, rather than merely being a general assessment of how most prisoners react to conditions of imprisonment at highly secure facilities. Four other justices joined in the majority opinion, which also found no error in any other aspect of Morva's trial and sentencing.

    In the dissenting opinion, Justice Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr., writing for himself and Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, contended that the majority was effectively adopting a per se rule that prison life risk assessment evidence would never be sufficiently particularized to an individual defendant to require the appointment of an expert to offer such testimony. In Justice Koontz's view, the circuit court erred in not appointing Dr. Cunningham as an expert and permitting the jury to consider his testimony during the sentencing phase of Morva's trial. The dissent agreed with the majority's rulings as to the other aspects of the appeal.

    Morva may seek a rehearing of his appeal before the Virginia court or he may appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. Morva can also seek further review of his conviction through the state and federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings.

    http://www.wdbj7.com/global/story.asp?s=11155317

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    On December 3, 2010, Morva filed a state habeas petition before the Virginia Supreme Court.

    http://208.210.219.132/scolar/precaseinq.jsp?numoftabs=

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