In my view, the death penalty is indefensible without regard to whether the condemned embraces his punishment, as occurred yesterday in Louisiana with Gerald Bordelon's execution. I will concede, however, that leveling the argument against capital punishment becomes more difficult when discussing "volunteers," which is why I was pleased to read a well reasoned critique of yesterday's execution written by Bidish Sarma, a friend and colleague at the Capital Appeals Project.
The State of Louisiana took Gerald Bordelon’s life yesterday. Mr. Bordelon volunteered for execution. After a jury convicted him of first-degree murder at the guilt phase of his capital murder trial, he asked his trial attorneys not to present any mitigating circumstances at the penalty phase – the phase where the jury had to decide whether the convicted murderer would be executed, or would serve a life-without-parole sentence. After the jury sentenced him to death by execution, Mr. Bordelon waived his right to challenge that sentence in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Louisiana Supreme Court nonetheless issued an opinion in his case that ultimately dismissed the appeal. The Court indicated that it was legally obligated to decide whether Bordelon was competent to waive his appeals and also to determine if his sentence was proportionate. In October, the Court cleared the path for today’s execution, and ruled that Mr. Bordelon is competent to waive his rights to an appeal, and that the death sentence in this case is not disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant.
Generally, it isn’t uncommon for death-sentenced defendants to “volunteer” for execution by waiving their appeals. According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, roughly 12% of defendants waive appellate review. Yet, Bordelon was the first person to successfully volunteer in Louisiana since the death penalty was reinstated here in 1976. And, while every case in which someone “volunteers” presents complex legal, ethical, moral, and philosophical questions, Gerald Bordelon’s case is worth thinking about carefully.If you are a fan of complex legal, ethical, moral and philosophical questions, you can read the rest here.