Save William Morva

Mercy for Morva


On July 6th the Commonwealth of Virginia is set to execute a severely mentally ill man – William Morva. 

William's mental illness first manifested in early adulthood, when he started to believe he had special knowledge and supernatural powers. He was consumed by paranoid delusions that shaped and bent his reality.

The impact of his intense delusions was on display in outbursts visible in court, but jurors never received an accurate explanation of William's behavior. They were told only that he had problematic “attitudes towards the world,” and was not likely to change. Without an accurate explanation of William’s mental illness, he seemed irrevocably dangerous and his crimes seemed senseless – jurors could not see that he was in the grip of uncontrollable delusions at the time he committed his crimes. They sentenced him to death.

But this is an execution that does not need to happen. Governor McAuliffe can now see the evidence of William’s mental illness that the jury could not. He can commute William's death sentence and get William the help he has needed for so many years.

Can you help make sure Governor McAuliffe sees all the facts and all the evidence? Can you write to the Governor, to ask him to stop this execution?

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William was failed by the system and should never have been sentenced to death.  He was only 18 when his family’s long history of mental illness and domestic violence caught up with him. He was a promising young man, and a member of Amnesty International. After he dropped out of high school, his mental health deteriorated dramatically and his lifestyle changed. He espoused bizarre views and strange behavior. He was arrested on robbery charges.

While awaiting trial, William’s delusions engulfed him and he believed he was in danger, fighting for his life. He escaped custody and in the process he shot and killed two men.

In court, the trial psychiatrist incorrectly diagnosed William with a personality disorder and wrongly told jurors that he didn’t have delusions. It was not until six years later that the extent of William’s mental illness was finally revealed. When William was finally evaluated by a court appointed expert, it was confirmed he has an illness that makes him believe in realities that aren’t true. It was these delusional realities, too powerful for anyone to resist, that led him to commit his crimes. 

Now, the Commonwealth of Virginia risks executing a severely mentally ill man who was unable to tell delusion from reality – unless Governor McAuliffe intervenes.


By taking part in this action, you are agreeing to Reprieve US keeping you informed by email about William's case and our other work supporting victims of human rights abuse. If you would like to opt out of contact from Reprieve US, please email us at If you submit a letter, your message and details will be passed on to VCRRC, our partners in Virginia, who will hand them in to Governor McAuliffe. Your details will not be stored by the VCRRC or used for any purpose other than to give your message to Governor McAuliffe.

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