Child killer asks to be hanged

IN LESS than a week, Westley Allan Dodd is due to be led from his cell on Death Row and escorted to an elderly gallows to become the first person hanged in the United States for nearly three decades.

Dodd, a 31-year-old child killer, is to be executed by the usually progressive-minded western state of Washington, one of three states where the traditional noose survives for capital punishment.

His pending death has prompted an outcry from civil liberties groups which argue that hanging (abolished by Britain in 1965), is barbaric, and violates a clause in the US constitution banning cruel and inhumane punishment. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of Washington taxpayers in an effort to block the execution, scheduled for 5 January.

But their argument is complicated by one awkward detail. Dodd wants to be hanged. He has admitted torturing, raping and killing three young boys, including a four-year-old whom he strangled and hanged in a cupboard after assaulting him for two days.

Dodd says he should die like his infant victim, and has waived all appeals, insisting that he is incurable. 'I must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone else,' he stated in court documents. 'If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape again, and I will enjoy every minute of it.'

The ACLU argues that Dodd's wishes make no difference. 'The fact that someone wants to be hanged in no way eliminates the unconstitutionality of it,' said Jerry Sheehan, legislative director of the ACLU in Washington. 'He may want to be drawn and quartered by the government. It would still be unconstitutional.' It has assembled a stash of gruesome medical evidence showing that hangings can go badly wrong. There are cases of victims being partially or totally decapitated, or taking minutes to die.

But the ACLU faces a further stumbling block. Washington state gives Death Row prisoners the option of a lethal injection, which Dodd could have taken. He is the first man to be hanged by the state since 1963, when a mugger went to the gallows for killing a taxi driver for a few dollars.

An executioner at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, 300 miles south-east of Seattle, is being specially trained, using a manual partially based on military execution methods. The last prison hanging in the US was in Kansas, in 1965, when four men were executed.

If Dodd does hang, becoming the 185th person executed since the US resumed capital punishment in 1977, there are other reasons why his case will not be forgotten. He is partially responsible for an unusual state law, which has also outraged civil liberties groups and is being challenged in court.

When Dodd was arrested, it emerged that he had committed a series of previous offences, but had never been jailed for more than four months at a time. On several occasions, the courts released him on the promise that he agreed to treatment - which he says he made because it allowed him to go on stalking children. His case coincided with that of another repeated sex offender who, on release from prison, badly mutilated a seven-year-old.

The ensuing public outcry prompted the state legislature unanimously to pass a law allowing repeat sex offenders to be imprisoned after they have completed prison sentences on the grounds that there is a high risk that they will commit a future offence. When certain offenders are due for release, state prosecutors can ask a jury to detain them indefinitely. A handful of men are now being held under this clause - not for what they have done, but for what they might do.

(Photograph omitted)

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star