Press Releases

Thank You Governor Gilmore!

NAMI Applauds Virginia Decision to Grant Clemency to Death Row Prisoner With Severe Mental Illness

May 12 1999

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today praised Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore III for his decision to grant clemency to convicted murderer Calvin Swann, originally scheduled to die Wednesday night, converting his sentence from death to life without parole.

"Governor Gilmore has distinguished himself tonight as a man of honor and compassion," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "He has chosen to protect both the public safety and the interests of fundamental human justice. Morally, he made the right choice. We hope that the decision will become a national precedent for other death-penalty cases that involve persons with severe, biologically based brain disorders."

Since age 19, Swann has suffered from schizophrenia, a chronic illness that includes delusions and hallucinations among its symptoms. Prior to diagnosis, Swann had never exhibited criminal propensity or behavior. In a series of hospitalizations and short-lived community placements, he received inadequate care and treatment, leading to involvement in the criminal justice system

In a May 11 letter to Governor Gilmore appealing for clemency, NAMI argued that Swann's psychiatric condition had "continued to deteriorate since his last conviction" and confinement on death row. The letter also pointed out that "serious questions" existed over whether or not Mr. Swann truly comprehended "the reality and implications" of his impending execution. Furthermore, NAMI noted that Gilmore, as attorney general, was a leader in amending Virginia's criminal code to provide life without parole as a sentencing option. The prosecutor in the Swann case has acknowledged that he would have recommended that option if it had been available at that time.