32-year-old William Morva is scheduled to be put to death Thursday using a mixture of unregulated drugs
William Morva is set to be executed using a combination of three drugs that may have caused the last prisoner put to death with the same drugs an excruciating, inhumane death.
Two of the three drugs have been obtained from private compounding pharmacies, meaning the drugs are not subject to the regulatory approval process followed by the majority of drug manufacturers.
As a result, the drugs can have of varying quality and strength. Evidence emerged that Ricky Gray, a prisoner executed by the state 6 months prior, may have died in extreme distress after having been injected with the same drug cocktail.
Gray, 39, was put to death for going on a killing spree in 2006, murdering two families, his mother and step-father, and an acquaintance.
Gray’s autopsy report states that “blood tinged fluid is present from the mouth”, that Gray’s lungs were “severely congested”, and the upper airways contain “foamy liquid”.
An associate professor of pathology at Emory University found the autopsy results unusual, saying that the foamy liquid in the upper airways was an indication of acute pulmonary edema.
Professor Mark Edgar went on to say: “This way of dying is intolerable. You can’t control your breathing – it is terrible. When it is this severe you can experience panic and terror, and if the individual was in any way aware of what was happening to them it would be unbearable.”
Virginia has the most stringent secrecy death penalty laws
Despite Morva displaying symptoms of potentially severe mental illness, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe allowed the execution to proceed.
Legislation drafted by Governor McAuliffe make it impossible to find out the identity of the two “mystery” drugs in the lethal injection cocktail.
Mary Foa, director of Reprieve, an international rights charity, commented that Virginia’s department of corrections is guilty of “ . . . dealing drugs on the black market, under cover of a secrecy law that shields back-alley compounding labs from regulation . . . [these drugs] already led to one prolonged and potentially torturous execution”.
Morva’s attorney, Dawn Davison, asked the state of Virginia to treat him for his mental illness rather than execute him. “Nothing can be gained by pushing ahead, except subjecting a vulnerable man to a potentially slow and excruciating death.”