Kaye Scholer Successful in Having Death Sentence Commuted

June 18, 2008

On June 10, 2008, the Governor of Virginia, Timothy M. Kaine, commuted the death sentence of our client, Percy Levar Walton, to life in prison without parole on the grounds that he was mentally incompetent to understand his situation. The commutation came just a day before his scheduled execution. In his statement, Gov. Kaine said, "Given the extended period of time over which Walton has exhibited this lack of mental competence, I must conclude that a commutation of his sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole is now the only constitutionally appropriate course of action."

Kaye Scholer has represented Mr. Walton since 2002, and was successful in receiving a reprieve from Gov. Kaine in June 2006 that delayed the scheduled execution to allow for an independent evaluation of Mr. Walton's mental condition and competence. The reprieve in 2006 came just an hour before Virginia was to execute him.

The efforts of the Kaye Scholer team included traditional legal argument, extensive analysis of the medical evidence, research into other successful clemency petitions, persuasive drafting, lobbying for support from prominent world leaders, including Desmond Tutu, advocacy in the press, and a lot of political savvy — but most of all, an unwavering commitment to justice and human decency.

The Kaye Scholer team included Kevin Willett (Senior Legal Assistant, New York Office); and Arthur Brown, Lori Leskin and Jennifer Patterson (all Partners, Litigation, New York Office).

Kaye Scholer is a recognized leader in defense work for death penalty cases and has a three-decade tradition of representing indigent death row inmates who were sentenced under circumstances in violation of their constitutional rights. Lori Leskin and Jennifer Patterson, along with two other Kaye Scholer attorneys, will receive the prestigious 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award for Capital Representation from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York's Committee on Capital Punishment on July 14, 2008. The award recognizes attorneys and law firms in the New York area who have contributed their time and legal experience over the last ten years to represent inmates across the nation who are under a sentence of death.

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