Death Penalty “Volunteers” Provoke Sharp Debate


Before he was charged with murder, Todd Zommer, 34, confessed to killing his 77-year-old neighbor and told a reporter that he wanted to be executed as soon as possible, says the Orlando Sentinel. “I don’t care. I don’t feel remorse,” he said in an interview at the Osceola County Jail. “I just want the jury to find me guilty and sentence me to death. Do you think I want to live like this?”

Zommer is one of an increasing number of what are known as “death-penalty volunteers.” Another was Glenn Ocha, who was executed last month for a 1999 murder after refusing to let his attorneys defend him. Randy Means of the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office says there’s nothing illegal or wrong about executing someone who wants to die. Gainesville lawyer and death-penalty opponent Susan Cary, however, says it is immoral to let prisoners who often are mentally ill and/or suicidal goad the state into killing them. The Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center says that eight of the last 12 inmates put to death in Florida were volunteers.

“If people are incredibly depressed and shell shocked and shamed by the enormity of the situation, they don’t make decisions in their best interest,” Orange-Osceola Public Defender Bob Wesley said. Osceola sheriff’s Lt. Andy Lang, who supervises the violent-crimes division, has no problem with granting the death wishes of convicts. “It saves the family and the law-enforcement and judicial system time and money,” said Lang. “They’re finally showing a conscience. If they want to do that, more power to them. I don’t have any remorse or any feelings toward these guys. The sooner it happens, the better.”


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