Volunteering for Death: The Fast Track to the Death House

Oct 9, 2009 - by Robert Phillips - 0 Comments

The lethal-injection chamber in California's San Quentin Prison.

The lethal-injection chamber in California's San Quentin Prison.

Death-row inmates are increasingly foregoing the appeal process to hasten the date of their execution. "Volunteers" now account for more than one of every eight executions.

by Robert Anthony Phillips

Timothy McVeigh was far from alone in his desire to speed up his execution date by dropping the appeal of his death sentence. There are dozens of death row inmates in the United States who have or who are doing the same thing: ''volunteering'' for death. In the last year, volunteers have been executed in Nevada, Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Virginia, California and Oklahoma.

These volunteers get on the fast track to the death house by pleading guilty and asking for a death sentence at their trials or, most often, dropping their appeals after they are convicted.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that the death penalty was constitutional as long as its imposition was accompanied by certain safeguards, 90 of the 722 convicted murderers executed in the United States have been volunteers, according to a recent study conducted by Amnesty International, the human rights group. More pointedly, about two-thirds of the voluntary executions have occurred since 1994, AI reports.

Since 1995, 409 convicted killers have been executed in the United States, with at least 61 of those volunteering for death, the rights groups says. Overall, the study by AI reported that volunteers have accounted for one in eight executions in the United States.

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