Marco Allen Chapman is ready to die.
After more than three years of waiting for courts to consider an appeal he never wanted, the death row inmate may soon get his wish and become the first person executed in Kentucky since 1999.
"I'm willing to accept the consequences for the crime I committed," Chapman told The Associated Press in a recent interview, his first since pleading guilty to the 2002 stabbing deaths of two children after a two-day crack binge.
Several states are moving swiftly forward on death penalty cases after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling on a different Kentucky case, upheld the widely used three-drug method of lethal injection. This week, Georgia became the first to execute an inmate after the seven-month hiatus. Condemned inmates in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas also had dates set for their lethal injections.
Chapman's execution hasn't been scheduled, but prosecutors will be aided by the fact that he waived his right to a jury trial, asked the judge for a death sentence and waived his appeals.
If the Kentucky Supreme Court rejects his latest appeal, Chapman could be dead as soon as June, 3 1/2 years after his conviction.
That would be extraordinarily fast — death penalty cases take an average of 12 years to play out.
Too slow ...
To Chapman, it feels like an eternity.
"It's long and drawn out," Chapman said. "I don't see why it should take so long. If a man is sane and competent, he ought to be able to get his wishes ... especially when you plea-bargain for it."
He lives with the memories of the children he killed in Warsaw, a small town an hour northeast of Louisville. In the middle of the night, Chapman went to the home of Carolyn Marksberry, a friend of his family. He knocked on the door, then put a knife to her throat. He tied her up, raped and stabbed her, then attacked her children. The oldest, Courtney Sharon, played dead. Chelbi Sharon, 7, and Cody, 6, were killed.
"To this day, I still don't know why. I don't know exactly what happened that night," Chapman said. "I did something that was immoral and wrong. I want to pay the price for it."
Chapman certainly isn't the first condemned inmate to ask for his sentence to be carried out. Robert Charles Comer was finally executed by Arizona last year after fighting for seven years to be executed. Much of that time was spent trying to prove his competency.
But legal experts say Chapman's case is unique because his court-appointed attorneys are fighting for his life against his wishes, arguing he suffers from depression and is unable to decide his own fate. Yet Chapman has been found to be mentally competent multiple times, according to prosecutors' filings.
... or too fast?
Richard Jaffe, a Birmingham, Ala., attorney who has handled more than 50 death penalty cases, said the speed of Chapman's case is "disturbing."
"This is extraordinarily short," said Jaffe, who is on the board of directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Chapman's attorneys, Donna Boyce and Randall Wheeler, have declined to comment while the case is pending. Calls to Boone Commonwealth Attorney Linda Talley-Smith, the local prosecutor on Chapman's case, were not returned.
Kentucky has executed just two inmates since 1976: Harold McQueen, who was electrocuted in 1997 for the 1981 robbery and murder of a convenience store clerk; and Eddie Lee Harper, who died by lethal injection in 1999. Harper spent 16 years on death row for killing his adoptive parents before he dropped his appeals and asked for his sentence to be carried out.
The Rev. Pat Delahanty, who heads the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said cases of inmates volunteering for execution generally move quickly through the courts because there is no one to stop the proceedings.
"That's about the only time anyone pays any attention to the inmate," Delahanty said. "It's tragic. It's a form of state-assisted suicide, really."
Chapman awaits his fate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, spending 22 hours a day in his cell on death row, where most of the 34 other inmates continually put off their sentences with court motions, appeals and pleas for clemency.
Suicide — in the traditional sense — is not an option.
"I guess it's kind of my Christian upbringing," Chapman said. "Suicide is unforgivable. I figure if I'm not doing it to myself, it's not a suicide."