Walton is a
black American from Virginia who was convicted and sentenced to
death in 1997 for the November 1996 murders of Elizabeth and
Jessee Hendrick, aged 81 and 80, and Archie Moore, aged 33, in
scheduled to be executed on 8 June 2006, but the governor of
Virginia, Timothy Kaine, stayed the execution one hour before it
was due to take place and has ordered a mental examination of
the convict to determine if he is fit for execution or not. It
has been reported that Walton has an IQ of just 66.
stated that it would be immoral to either execute or pardon
Walton without further investigations, and ordered that the
court will evaluate the results of the examinations and, if
applicable, set a new execution date on 9 December 2006.
decision has sparked criticism from his political opponents, who
during the recent election campaigns claimed that he was soft on
crime and unwilling to make use of the death penalty.
Percy Levar Walton
murdered three people in the same neighborhood in Danville,
Virginia, in two separate incidents.
Two of the victims were an
elderly couple, Elizabeth and Jessie Kendrick. While
burglarizing their home, Walton shot both of them at close range
in the top of the head.
Walton murdered the a young
man, Archie Moore, in his home by shooting him above his left
eye. Although the physical evidence alone overwhelmingly
established Walton’s guilt, Walton also admitted to several
other jail inmates that he committed the murders and described
the graphic details of the murders to his cellmate.
Two mental health
professionals determined that Walton was competent to stand
trial, i.e. that Walton understood precisely the charges against
him, he knew that evidence was required to convict him, he was
able to assist his lawyers in his own defense, and he realized
that he could get the death penalty for his crimes.
Based on this evidence and
the fact that Walton had told at least two of his fellow inmates
that he intended to "play crazy," Walton’s counsel ultimately
decided not to pursue further a claim that Walton was
incompetent to stand trial or plead guilty.
With the assistance of
counsel, on October 7, 1997 Walton pled guilty to all three
murders, three counts of robbery, one count of burglary, and six
counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
After determining that Walton
would likely commit additional criminal acts and would be a
continuing serious threat to society, the Danville Circuit Court
sentenced Walton to death for the three murders.
Walton was no stranger to
crime before he murdered these three people. His prior
convictions include burglary, grand larceny, resisting arrest,
assault and battery on a police officer, juvenile possession of
a firearm, and assault and battery. The state trial court
sentenced Walton to death.
Walton has tried to play the
mental retardation trump card so popular among condemned inmates
these days, however, his IQ score in 1996, shortly before he
turned 18, was 90 - well above the accepted threshold for mild
mental retardation of 70.
Percy Levar Walton
Date of Birth:
October 18, 1978
October 31, 1997
Murder – three counts of murder
DOC Inmate Number: 250713
Percy Levar Walton was 18 years and one month old at
the time of the crimes. Walton suffers from schizophrenia and
over the past several
years, prison personnel, including a psychiatrist, described
Walton as “floridly psychotic” and severely mentally retarded.
Walton’s prison cell is devoid of any personal affects, except
for a large pile of salt, pepper and sugar packets; he has no
form of entertainment nor does he seek any. He makes no phone
calls; he has no visits from family or friends. Prison guards
refer to Walton as “Horse”, short for “Crazy Horse,” and stay at
arms length to avoid his stench -- a classic symptom of
schizophrenia. In fact, when a person is led to Walton’s cell,
a guard points to a spot where he claims if “Horse’s smell gets
here, we bathe
In pre-trial custody, Walton’s lawyers argued that his unusual
behavior was evidence of mental disorder. In February 1997, for
example, Walton told his lawyer that he was Percy Gunn (Walton's
father) as well as the "King of Hearts." And during a subsequent
meeting, Walton told him that if he closed his eyes he could
become invisible. In the
past, he also was convinced that he would be released on bail in
spite of his lawyer telling him that this would never happen.
After Walton’s arrest in November 1996, he demanded a speedy
trial at which time he claimed his innocence would be proven.
But by the following summer, he was saying that he wanted to
plead guilty because the
electric "chair [was] for killers.” Walton also told
the hard-nosed prosecution expert witness, Stanton
Samenow, that he believed he could be executed and still come
back and appear on national television. He claimed that he
could also bring back to life his dead grandfather,
as well as
the victims of his crimes.
A few weeks before
Walton’s schedule trial on
Oct. 7, 1997, Walton surprised prosecutors when
he agreed to suddenly plead guilty to three counts of capital
the deaths of
the elderly white couple, Jesse Enoch Henrick, 81 and
his wife, Elizabeth Kendrick, 82, and a 33-year-old black man,
Archie Moore in
the basis of “future dangerousness”
and vileness, Danville Circuit Judge James F. Ingram sentenced
Walton to death
Oct. 31, 1997.”
In a 1999 affidavit, Walton’s attorney asserted that he had not
“meaningfully assist[ed]…in preparing a defense.”
“Often times it was extremely difficult to communicate with Mr.
there were occasions when we could
not tell whether he
understood what we were saying to him. Other
times it was clear from Mr. Walton's questions and responses to
my questions that Mr. Walton understood little of what I was
His attorney also recalled that defense had been “unable to
convince Mr. Walton that he would not come back to life" if he
The Supreme Court
of Virginia affirmed Walton's death sentence on
June 5, 1998.
In affirming the
sentence, the Court
used testimony by a well-known jailhouse snitch with a stack of
felonies who had his previous court testimony by
the same prosecutor in yet another
death-row case impugned, as proof positive that Walton presented
the community with “future
Mr. Walton is
the second severely mentally ill
black man from Danville to be sentenced to death. Calvin
Swann was the first,
but fortunately, then-Gov.
James S. Gilmore granted clemency in May 1999. Swann was also
schizophrenic. Both Swann and Walton were tried before
the same circuit judge, examined by
identical expert witnesses and defended by
the same lawyer. Mr. Swann has since died in prison.
national grants of death-row clemency were based on an inmate’s
extreme mental illness. These include Arthur P. Baird II
(Indiana 2005); Herbert Welcome (Louisiana 2003, mentally ill
and mentally retarded); Alexander Williams (Georgia 2002);
Calvin Swann (Virginia 1999); and Bobbie Shaw (Missouri 1993).
These commutations reflect a greater understanding of
the ravages of severe schizophrenia, its biological
cause, and the need
for compassion and treatment rather
than condemnation for sufferers.
June 20, 2002,
the United States Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v
Virginia that execution of mentally retarded
felons is prohibited by the
constitution as “cruel
and unusual punishment.” Since
2002, more than 50
death-row inmates who suffer from mental retardation have been
removed from death-row across the
and their sentences have been remanded to life in prison
without parole. Although the commonwealth’s mental health expert reported that
Walton “appear[ed] to be severely mentally retarded,”
the attorney general’s office fought to execute Mr.
Mere weeks before Walton was
scheduled to be executed in April 2003, Dr. Patricia General, a
psychiatrist who worked at Sussex I where death-row inmates are
held in Virginia, testified that Walton was “floridly psychotic”
and suggested that he may have severe mental retardation or
mental illness such as schizophrenia. She had recently
conducted an IQ test on Walton where he scored 66 (a score below
70 is generally indicative of mental retardation). Shortly after
her testimony, Dr. General was reassigned from death-row.
May 27, 2003,
the U.S. Supreme
Court upheld a stay of execution by a federal appeals court.
Chief U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson agreed to a
competency hearing and at
June 16, 2003 hearing,
the commonwealth of Virginia argued that Walton was not
mentally retarded. Even though Walton had scored 66 in
the recently state-administered test,
he had scored 90 seven years earlier and
the state argued that he was competent to be
psychiatrists testified that Walton had chronic schizophrenia
and did not understand that he would soon be executed. Walton
himself claimed in court that he “didn’t even know” why he was
there or that he had earlier been scheduled to die.
Attorney General Robert Harris told the court that he was “very upset” that Dr. General
ordered testing so near to Walton’s execution date; although he
the judge that he had played no role
in her removal from staff.
Tellingly, Dr. Alan
J. Arikan, the
remaining psychiatrist at
Sussex 1, testified for
the state that he did not believe
Walton was mentally incompetent and that his answers to various
interviews were calculated. Dr. Arikan’s testimony flew in
the face of consistent and compelling evidence from other
prison staff members as well as independent psychiatrists Dr
Anand Pandurangi of the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College
and Dr Ruben Gur of the
University of Pennsylvania, all who testified to Walton’s
impaired mental state. The state was attempting to bypass
the testimony and opinions of
their own officials, such as Dr. General; this
is indicative of the contradictory nature of
the death penalty in
testimony illustrated the
severe nature of his mental capacity. Asked by Jennifer Givens,
his attorney, if he had been accused of anything at his original
trial, Walton replied, “nuthin’…I don’t believe
they accused me of nuthin’.” Asked whether he knew what his sentence was, Walton eagerly
stated that “I got a piece of paper saying a hearing on May
28.” This was Walton’s original execution date. He was also
unaware that May 28 had come and gone.
cross-examination, Attorney General Harris told Walton, “We’re
going to kill you. Do you know THAT?” Walton blandly replied,
“No”. The hearing adjourned with no decision. Judge Wilson
later requested an independent expert to supplement prior
testimony before ruling on
In a letter filed
in Federal District
February 23, 2004, Dr. Mark J Mills, a
Columbia University professor with degrees in medicine and law
testified that Walton failed to meet
the requirements for insanity as laid down by
the US Supreme Court
It is my belief
that Mr. Walton understands that he is to be punished by
execution and that his punishment is a result of his conviction
in the murder (of) three individuals.
March 3, 2004,
Judge Wilson wrote a nine-page order that in spite of Walton’s
irrational and bizarre behavior, he was sane enough for
the state to execute. Judge Wilson also chastised
the state for its failure to provide procedures
for the review of
claims of mental incompetence within state courts, forcing
appeals to go to
the federal courts.
April 28, 2005 a
three-judge panel of the
4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by a 2-1 ruling
the case back to
the District Court in Roanoke for further consideration of both
the mental retardation claim and mental competency.
Attorney General Kilgore appealed and
the full 4th Circuit, which heard oral
Oct. 27, 2005. On
March 9, 2006,
the Court denied Walton’s claim of
mental retardation and competency by a vote of 7-6.
April 21, 2006
Danville Circuit court set Walton’s execution
date for June 8. Hours before his execution, Gov. Tim Kaine
ordered a six-month reprieve and authorized an independent and
nonjudicial examination of
Walton’s mental state.
Dec. 4, 2006,
Gov. Kaine ordered a second reprieve; this time for 18 months,
June 10, 2008.
"I am compelled to
conclude that Walton is severely mentally impaired and meets
the Supreme Court's definition of
mental incompetence," Kaine said in a statement. "At
the same time, it is within
the realm of possibility -- though unlikely -- that
Walton's mental impairment is not permanent.
Accordingly, a commutation of
his sentence is not appropriate at this time.”
Percy Levar Walton