It's a death-row fact that is likely to surprise: In five states—Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and South Dakota—only one type of condemned man has been put to death since the 1970s: a "volunteer." That's legal-world parlance for a person who has been sentenced to die and has given up his or her appeals, and the Marshall Project focuses on one such volunteer in Nevada. Scott Dozier is 47 and ready to die. It's not that he wants to be dead. "I just would rather be dead than do this," he tells Maurice Chammah. And not that his days are awful: He listens to NPR and music by St. Vincent, watches PBS, makes art with pastels, and works out so much a judge once joked about how fit he is. But he's been sitting on death row in Ely State Prison for a decade over the 2002 murder and dismembering of a 22-year-old man in a crime tied to meth making.
Chammah writes that about 10% of the 1,400 people to be executed in the US since the '70s gave up their appeals—Timothy McVeigh and Aileen Wuornos, who Charlize Theron depicted in Monster, are among the more famous ones. "But few volunteers have set off as much legal and political upheaval as Dozier," writes Chammah. That's partly because Nevada hasn't been in the business of executing anyone in a long time, since 2006, though the Las Vegas-encompassing Clark County doled out more death sentences than all US counties but one in 2017. But on Oct. 31, 2016, Dozier sent a Clark County judge a letter stating his desire to be put to death. Then the trouble started: difficulty finding drugs (247 drug companies turned the state down), the contentious decision to use fentanyl, legal wrangling, a petition from the ACLU, complaints from lawyers of other death row clients, and more. Dozier, at this point, is still alive. Read Chammah's full story, which had more on what drives volunteers, here. (Read more death row stories.)