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Virginia governor will not halt inmate's execution

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - Virginia's governor declined to block Thursday's scheduled execution of murderer William Morva, despite international pleas that he be spared because of mental illness and a report that questioned whether the execution drugs would work as planned.

Morva's death sentence, for killing an unarmed security guard and a sheriff's deputy in a 2006 escape from custody, has triggered renewed debate about capital punishment for the mentally ill. Morva, 35, is scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT on Friday).

Governor Terry McAuliffe said examinations by prison doctors since Morva's 2008 conviction had shown no sign that he suffered from severe mental illness or delusional disorder, an ailment akin to schizophrenia, as his lawyers have argued.

"The record before me does not contain sufficient evidence to warrant the extraordinary step of overturning the decision of a lawfully impaneled jury following a properly conducted trial," McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Lawyers for Morva said in a statement that McAuliffe turned down an 11th-hour request for a temporary reprieve based on reporting about the lethal drugs by the Guardian newspaper.

A review of the autopsy of Ricky Gray, a Virginia inmate executed in January, showed fluid in the lungs and blood on Gray's lips, suggesting the drugs had not quickly stopped his heart as intended, the newspaper said. A McAuliffe spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

More than 34,000 people, along with U.N. human rights experts and the daughter of the slain deputy, had asked McAuliffe to spare Morva's life.

Morva holds dual U.S.-Hungarian citizenship, and the European Union and the Hungarian Embassy in Washington had called on McAuliffe for clemency.

Morva's deadly rampage took place after he was taken to a hospital while being held in the Montgomery County Jail on robbery charges.

At the hospital he stole a gun and shot the security guard. The next day, Morva shot the deputy sheriff during a search for him.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in February to hear Morva's appeal.

Morva's execution will be the 13th in the United States this year, and the 113th in Virginia since the Supreme Court allowed resumption of the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

That number would place Virginia second among states on the U.S. executions list behind Texas, which has had 542.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)