Thinking that he suffered from a severe gastrointestinal problem, Morva ate raw meat, lots of cheese, berries, and pine cones. As his fluid living situation and poor health management continued, his mental condition deteriorated.
He thought he was destined to be a leader of indigenous tribes in North and South America, and he later believed that the authorities, especially members of the Bush administration, were trying to thwart his grand plan.
In 2005, Morva planned to rob a convenience store with other partners, wearing masks and carrying firearms. They left the storefront after finding it closed, but an employee inside spotted the group and called the police, who apprehended the suspects around town.
Charged with attempted robbery, Morva could not leave the Montgomery County Jail in Virginia because his family could not afford to pay the bail.
After hurting his ankle in a fall and being escorted to a hospital by a prison guard for treatment, he knocked the guard unconscious, stole his gun, and shot an unarmed security guard to death on his way out of the hospital. Hiding along a trail in Blacksburg, Va. for 24 hours, Morva was discovered by a Sheriff's deputy, whom he shot dead with the stolen gun.
He was apprehended afterward, and was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.
At his capital trial, mental health experts did give Morva an evaluation, but they relied on the testimony of his high school friends, who had not been regularly in touch with him as a young adult, when he had suffered his worst bouts of delusions.
Even his mother and sister could only provide limited testimony, as they had lived across the state from him with little contact. They did tell experts of the time he showed up to his father's funeral unkempt, exhibiting some bizarre behavior, and wanting to walk barefoot, Lee noted.
However, the experts ruled that Morva was not suffering from a psychotic disorder, but rather from a personality disorder that was comprised of odd behavior and a poor attitude. He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, after which Robert Lee took up Morva's case.
"They minimized his mental illness," Lee insisted, saying that Morva's psychotic disorders are "amenable to treatment" and medications. Nevertheless, according to the court proceedings, his record is that of his 2006 trial when he was determined to have a personality disorder, not his later determination of delusional disorder.
He is scheduled to be executed on July 6, and Catholics are petitioning Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant him clemency.
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Furthermore, Morva's brother Michael was diagnosed by the Virginia Department of Corrections with a delusional mental disorder. He received treatment and medications for the illness, and after six months the department determined he was "clinically improved and stable." He is currently employed and living with family.
"This is the case of somebody who is seriously mentally ill," Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told CNA, and "that mental illness precipitated the murder."
Morva's case is not the only controversial death penalty news of late. On Wednesday, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended a federal district court's halt of Ohio's execution process by lethal injection.
The three-drug process was to be used in three scheduled executions, one of which is now set for July 26.
Ohio had used a drug combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride in its lethal injection protocol. A federal district court had put a halt to that process after claims that midazolam, a sedative, was not effective enough in blocking the painful effects of the other drugs that would paralyze the subject and stop a beating heart.
Midazolam has been used in botched executions, like in Oklahoma where Clayton Lockett was seen visibly writhing on the gurney after midazolam and the ensuing drugs were administered to him. He eventually died of a massive heart attack.