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Asking For Death

In nine days, Jeffrey Doughtie will die by lethal injection. There will be no last-minute appeals, no final-hour stay of execution.

At least, not if he has anything to say about it.

Doughtie is a death-row volunteer, one of a growing number of inmates who are choosing not to fight their death sentence.

Most death row inmates spend years fighting long, drawn-out appeals before their sentence is actually carried out. CBS News Legal Correspondent Kristin Jeanette-Meyers interviewed one such "death row volunteer."

Doughtie is a former heroin addict and a convicted killer. Last fall, he sent his lawyer a letter asking him to help end a "miserable existence in a miserable place."

With no hope of ever seeing life outside prison, Doughtie tells Jeanette-Meyers, he sees no reason to fight on.

"The most that I can hope for is spending the rest of my life in here," he says. "I don't think a prison should be a nice place. It's not a place that we should enjoy, but God didn't mean for folks to live like this."

"I know it's their job," he continues. "But sometimes they get a little too much enjoyment out of their job. I'm 37 years old. I have been pretty much hard-headed all my life. You have some young kid, just a kid, they hire some of them from college, stand in front of your cell, tell you you have to strip naked, you have to spread your -- the degradation comes on a daily basis."

"You never question for a minute that you're nothing to these people. You're not a human being."

Doughtie admits to the crime that put him on death row. He brutally killed two elderly shop owners who refused to give him money for drugs. Doughtie admits he beat the couple with a pipe, then pried the rings off their fingers to sell them for drugs.

"I spit on these people's hands to take the rings off... I remember every detail of it," he says. "I relived it 100,000 times. I wake up in cold sweats. You know, you don't forget that."

But, he adds, "What I did is being paid for. I'm not religious, but I... I've been forgiven, and I will go to heaven. I know that. I trade concrete and steel for gold."

Is he afraid?

"I'd lie if I said I wasn't," says Doughtie. "But think about it. They going to lay you down, put these heavy straps on you, pump you full of poison. That would scare anybody. I'm no different from anybody else. It would scare me. It would scare you."

Still, he sees death as a rational answer to an untenable situation.

Although it causes a bit of confusion, his battle is also legal. Usually, the prisoner is protesting the death sentence, and the state is fighting to carry it out.

His mother has asked him to reconsider. But Doughtie has been examined by a psychiatrist and he seems to be making a rational decision that he would like to accept his punishment and move on and not continue to suffer -- as he says he is -- on death row.

Fulfilling he wishes of death-row volunteer like Doughtie may not seem like such a controversial idea to many. They are violent criminals convicted of horrible crimes.

They want to die. Why not let them?

According to Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center of Human Rights, it's often the families of death-row inmates who battle executions. Also, mental-health issues are often involved.

"The other thing that I've seen in my practice," says Bright, "is, a lot of times, people change their minds from one day to another. Someone will say one day, 'I'm so depressed. It appears so hopeless. I want to give up.' And, a few days later, life looks different, and they have decided to go forward with their appeals [not to be executed]."

Finally, Bright says, the system of law and the Constitution demand careful review of cases involving the death penalty "in order to be sure we're executing the right people. We have released 77 innocent people from death rows in the last 20 years."

Bright's organization is devoted to the representation of death-penalty cases.