As the number of U.S. executions declines, one in eight convicted murderers who are executed “volunteer” to die by abandoning their legal appeals, says USA Today. Death row volunteers account for 123 of the 1,041 executions carried out since capital punishment resumed in 1977, says the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. The phenomenon “is something that hasn’t gotten much attention, but that is changing,” says J.C. Oleson, author of a 2006 law journal article about volunteers. “Why do they do it? And how should the legal system regard someone who just doesn’t want to participate? It raises real questions.”
This year, five of the 37 murderers put to death were volunteers. Two of the remaining 14 prisoners scheduled for execution have asked to die. Some volunteers, such as Elijah Page – scheduled for execution in South Dakota next week – give no reason for their choice. In South Dakota last week, a judge questioned Page for about 20 minutes before deciding that he was mentally competent and entitled to abandon his appeal.