On the Execution of William Charles Morva in the Commonwealth of Virginia
As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Kate M. Byrnes
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
July 6, 2017
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to our colleagues from the delegations of the European Union and other delegations for raising your concerns. As they noted, the Commonwealth of Virginia is scheduled to execute William Charles Morva on July 6 for the 2006 murders of Derrick McFarland, a security officer at Montgomery Regional Hospital, and Eric Sutphin, a corporal with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
The United States recognizes the debate on the death penalty, both within and among nations. We respect the views of our friends around this table. We remind colleagues that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party, permits imposition of the death penalty for the most serious crimes when carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court, and accompanied by appropriate protections and procedural safeguards, including the observance of due process. This includes the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence in all cases.
No defendant found by a court in the United States to have certain intellectual disabilities, under criteria established by the U.S. Supreme Court, would be subject to capital punishment in the United States. Following Supreme Court jurisprudence, it is for the competent courts in the United States to determine when execution of a person with such disabilities would constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and thus be contrary to the United States’ international obligations. The U.S. judicial system provides exhaustive protections to ensure that the death penalty is only imposed and carried out subject to extensive constitutional and legal protections and requirements and after exhaustive appeals at both the federal and state levels.
Mr. Morva’s case was the subject of exhaustive review over the course of nine years at both the state and federal court levels, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny further review. As noted in the statement by the European Union, he also exercised his right to seek a commutation of his sentence from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.