Should Death Row Inmates Be Allowed to Drop Their Appeals?


Serial wife-killer Jerry Stanley, on California’s death row for 28 years, says he deserves execution for the cold-blooded killing of his fourth wife in 1980 and for shooting to death his second wife five years earlier in front of their two children, the Los Angeles Times reports. Stanley, 66 and ailing, offered himself up as the test case for resuming three-drug lethal injections, which had been suspended for six years and remain under judicial review. One of 718 on California’s death row, Stanley has renewed a debate among legal experts about whether a condemned prisoner who drops resistance to execution has been driven insane by confinement or has accepted his fate and should be allowed a dignified end.

A judge has ruled that Stanley is competent to decide his own legal matters. He is one of at least three condemned men on the nation’s death rows volunteering to expedite their sentences. “Most of these people aren’t dropping their appeals because they believe it’s the punishment they deserve,” said Cornell law Prof. John Blume, author of “Killing the Willing,” a 2005 study of those who abandon pursuit of reprieve. Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida and other states with more frequent executions see more inmates asking lawyers to drop appeals, said Blume, who believes that more than 10 percent of the 1,277 executed nationwide since 1977 had lost the will to live by the time they died.

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