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Va. court upholds Morva’s death sentence

RICHMOND (AP) – A divided Virginia Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence of a jail escapee who killed a hospital guard and a sheriff’s deputy in a murderous rampage that set off a manhunt near Virginia Tech.
In a 5-2 decision, the court rejected William 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 in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in August 2006 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.
Morva 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 as police tracked Morva.
"We are pleased that the court has affirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence imposed for Morva’s senseless murders of two law-enforcement officers," said David Clementson, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Mims.
Morva’s attorney, David I. Bruck, said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the state appeal, Morva said his lawyers wanted to question Mark Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist whose specialty is "prison violence risk assessment." He claimed Cunningham’s testimony was needed to rebut the notion that Morva would be dangerous, even behind bars.
But the court’s majority said Cunningham’s testimony would have been about security measures prison officials could take to reduce Morva’s threat of dangerousness – an issue that goes beyond what jurors are supposed to consider.
"Our precedent is clear that a court should exclude evidence concerning the defendant’s diminished opportunities to commit criminal acts of violence in the future due to the security conditions in the prison," Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote. "We decline Morva’s invitation to overrule or ignore that precedent."

Va. court upholds Morva’s death sentence

RICHMOND (AP) – A divided Virginia Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence of a jail escapee who killed a hospital guard and a sheriff’s deputy in a murderous rampage that set off a manhunt near Virginia Tech.
In a 5-2 decision, the court rejected William 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 in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in August 2006 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.
Morva 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 as police tracked Morva.
"We are pleased that the court has affirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence imposed for Morva’s senseless murders of two law-enforcement officers," said David Clementson, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Mims.
Morva’s attorney, David I. Bruck, said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the state appeal, Morva said his lawyers wanted to question Mark Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist whose specialty is "prison violence risk assessment." He claimed Cunningham’s testimony was needed to rebut the notion that Morva would be dangerous, even behind bars.
But the court’s majority said Cunningham’s testimony would have been about security measures prison officials could take to reduce Morva’s threat of dangerousness – an issue that goes beyond what jurors are supposed to consider.
"Our precedent is clear that a court should exclude evidence concerning the defendant’s diminished opportunities to commit criminal acts of violence in the future due to the security conditions in the prison," Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote. "We decline Morva’s invitation to overrule or ignore that precedent."