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Dozens on death row are ready for death

By CALVIN WOODWARD Published: May 10, 2001
WASHINGTON - Thomas Grasso was none too pleased when he found out he was not going to be executed yet.

"My whole day is totally ruined," he said. "This is giving me a major headache."

Grasso eventually got his wish, being put to death in 1995 in Oklahoma for the murder of a neighbor. He is among dozens of death-row prisoners who, like Timothy McVeigh, decided not to stay the hand of the executioner.

Motives vary among prisoners who drop their appeals and submit to the death chamber willingly, or at least without protest.

Some become repentant and say they do not deserve to live. McVeigh, the unremorseful Oklahoma City bomber who killed 168 people, is not among them.

A few like the control they feel in the timing of their death. McVeigh, who favors the poetic line "I am the master of my fate" and may use it among his last words, seems to fit this pattern.

At least a few are suicidal. They want the state to do what they could not bring themselves to do.

Most just want to get it over with.

"I am a rational man," Robert Lee Massie wrote before helping California executioners find a vein for his lethal injection in March. "I do not consider forgoing the raptures of another decade behind bars to be an irrational decision." Massie had killed again after being paroled for a 1965 murder.

McVeigh, scheduled to die May 16, appears to be in the camp of those who see no sense in postponing the inevitable.

"I guess his feeling is, he knows he's going to die _ it might as well be sooner than later," his father William said after McVeigh dropped his appeals. McVeigh could still change his mind.

Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, has chronicled about 90 "consensual executions" among the more than 700 conducted in the United States since a 1976 Supreme Court decision brought capital punishment back.

Volunteers were first to be executed in 11 of the 31 states that have put people to death since 1976, starting with Gary Gilmore in Utah. None of the people executed since then in Idaho, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania had exhausted their appeals, according to Amnesty International.

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