The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

13 May 2005

Connecticut Executes Serial Killer

New England's Door Is Open

First Execution In 45 Years Could Lead To More

New England's death penalty opponents awoke to their worst nightmare this morning: not that Michael Ross last night became the first executed criminal in 45 years, but that there was so little public opposition.

It could certainly open the door to more executions in the region, even if only two New England states currently allow it, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Governor Mitt Romney is pushing his version of a capital punishment law in Massachusetts and the relative lack of public concern should give his effort a huge boost.

New England's dirty little secret is that outside of college towns, social attitudes are actually extremely traditional in most places, especially on law and order issues.

Americans wrongly assume it shares the views of the Kerrys and Kennedys, but it's really about regional ties: the hometown boys get the votes. Barney Frank will always prevail in college areas, but would have a tough time getting anywhere in Southeast Massachusetts.

In the case of Michael Ross, a convicted killer of eight young women, opponents of his execution had to deal with the fact that even he wanted to die.

His attorney was put in the odd position of trying to determine whether to block his execution or speed it up. The most recent lawyer was hired intentionally to work for the latter goal.

(AP- Pat Eaton-Robb 13 May 2005)

On Thursday, a federal appeals court in New York and the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed a lawsuit brought on behalf of Ross' father that claimed the execution would lead to a wave of suicide attempts among Connecticut inmates. The courts also rejected an attempt by Ross' sister to stop the execution.

About 300 people had gathered outside the prison as Ross was put to death.

"My heart is pounding," said Suzanne Strum of Waterford, who opposes capital punishment. "I can't believe Connecticut has become that state that's done it."

Among the death penalty supporters was Craig Miner of Enfield, who painted "Ross must go, 5/13/05" on the side of his car. "I have four kids of my own and I really feel sorry for the families of the girls," Miner said.

Desperate to save his life, public defenders and Ross' family had argued that Ross suffered from "death row syndrome" - that is, he had become deranged from living most of the past 18 years under a death sentence.

At the hearings, two psychiatrists testified that Ross was mentally incompetent. They said he has a personality disorder that compels him to choose death to avoid looking cowardly. Two other experts disputed the finding of incompetence and said he was genuinely remorseful.

Last month, a judge again found Ross competent to decide his fate.


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