Can you volunteer for the death penalty?

Let’s say you commit some moderately heinous crime that would make you eligible for the death penalty. Can you ask to skip years of prison and court appeals and just ask to be put to death ASAP?

Would they consider your unfit to stand trial if you asked for this? Would they try to honor your request in a timely fashion, or just say too bad and put you through the regular slow process?

You might want to read up on Gary Gilmore. He tried to be executed but a lot of other people (ACLU, etc.) kept getting delays. He did finally get his wish. Norman Mailer wrote a very good book about the case: The Executioner’s Song.

I remember that.

Perhaps the best thing to do if you are a heinous criminal is commit suicide as soon as the cops are getting close [but not suicide by cop or bystander, that is cruel to the poor cop or bystander that ends up shooting you.] There have been a fair number of threads over the years on the best ways to commit suicide. You could do up a nice video confession on a thumb drive and keep it in your pocket so you don’t have to try to make some hasty confession to bystander’s cell phones. Maybe with a nice powerpoint presentation on where the bodies are hidden.

Oddly enough, I am not actually being facetious - not knowing where the bodies are is very hard on the families of the victims. Searches can go on for decades …

IANAL, but I understand that some jurisdictions may prohibit a guilty plea in a capital case (unless as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty), or require appeal if a death sentence is given in a case.

Here’s a case in which the defendant “volunteered” for a death sentence. However, this did not avoid appeals by other parties.

No, but you can volunteer as tribute.

In the US, you cannot.

All capital cases where the death penalty is being sought must be tried. You can’t plea bargain for the death penalty. You must be found guilty after a trial and then sentenced to it.

Wikipedia (surprisingly) has a pretty detailed passage about the process:


Depends on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions allow a defendant to plead guilty and to agree to the death penalty if a competence evaluation has taken place and the court is satisfied that the defendant is competent and that the plea is freely and voluntarily entered. It’s also not completely unheard of for a death row inmate who has been through a criminal trial to waive further appeals. U.S. military courts are among those who don’t allow guilty pleas in death penalty cases - the UCMJ states that “[a] plea of guilty by the accused may not be received to any charge or specification alleging an offense for which the death penalty may be adjudged.” The Fort Hood killer wanted to plead guilty and receive the death penalty and wasn’t allowed to, so he tried his case pro se and essentially sabotaged it.

More info: Competence to Plead Guilty and Seek the Death Penalty

Information on Defendants Who Were Executed Since 1976 and Designated as “Volunteers”

ETA: Ninja’d by Colibri above on that first article.

That’s somewhat different than going into court and volunteering for the death penalty. In those cases, the death penalty was either being sought at trial or the person in question was already convicted and serving a sentence leading to their death when they decide to end their appeals.

Read the first link. Marco Chapman waived a jury trial and asked to be sentenced to death. After he was evaluated and found to be competent, the trial court allowrd it.