“I'll Make Them Shoot Me”: Accounts of Death Row Prisoners Advocating for Execution

Authors

  • Meredith Martin Rountree


  • Mark Warr, Sheldon Ekland-Olson, and particularly Mary R. Rose provided essential intellectual and editorial guidance, as did the anonymous reviewers and editors of the Law & Society Review. The Law and Society Association Graduate Student Workshop was also instrumental in sparking some of the ideas that found their way into this paper. I am grateful to the financial support provided by the American Bar Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, the Harry E. and Bernice M. Moore Fellowship of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the Texas State University-San Marcos Predoctoral Fellowship program, and the University of Texas Graduate Dean's Prestigious Fellowship Supplement. In addition, I thank the staff at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for their cheerful assistance. Finally, I am indebted to Rob Owen for his endless patience and encyclopedic knowledge of Texas's death penalty. Please direct all correspondence to Meredith Martin Rountree, The University of Texas School of Law Capital Punishment Center, 727 East Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78705; e-mail: meredithmr@utexas.edu.

Abstract

About 11% of death-sentenced prisoners executed in the United States hastened executions by abandoning their appeals. How do these prisoners persuade courts to allow them to abandon their appeals? Further, how do legal structures and processes organize these explanations, and what do they conceal? An analysis of Texas cases suggests that prisoners marshal explanations for their desires to hasten execution that echo prevailing cultural beliefs about punishment and the death penalty. The coherence of these accounts is amplified by a non-adversarial, unreliable legal process. This article contributes to our understanding of legal narratives, and expands their analysis to include not only hegemonic stories and legal rules, but also the legal process that generates them.

Ancillary