Friday, December 17, 2004


25 nations ask state to spare Ross' life
European Union weighs in

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The European Union has asked Connecticut’s governor and parole board to delay or halt the planned execution of serial killer Michael Ross, the Dutch government said Thursday.

The execution of the former Jewett City insurance salesman, scheduled for Jan. 26, would be the first in New England since 1960.

The Netherlands currently holds the rotating European Union presidency and issued a statement on behalf of all 25 EU member countries.

The EU, which opposes capital punishment, said in a letter to U.S. authorities that a freeze on carrying out death sentences was a “first step” toward abolition.

It asked Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, “to grant a reprieve to Mr. Ross to allow for deliberation on this complex and emotive issue.” It called on the chairman of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles “to exercise all the powers vested in your office to grant clemency.”

Rell, on Dec. 6, announced she would not issue a reprieve after researching case law, the constitution, state statutes and details of the Ross murders.

Rell has no power to commute Ross’ death sentence. But according to the state constitution, Rell has the power to grant a reprieve that would have postponed Ross’ planned Jan. 26 execution until after the next legislative session.

“Gov. Rell took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state of Connecticut, and that is her responsibility,” said Dennis Schain, the governor’s spokesman, when asked about the EU letter.

Given Rell’s decision against a reprieve, state lawmakers are doubtful that a bill abolishing or changing the death penalty will be approved before the Jan. 26 execution date.

Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee and someone who favors life in prison rather than the death penalty, said Rell should provide the time for the legislature to fully debate the issue.

“The involvement of the EU in this issue just underscores the fact that this is a much bigger issue than just Michael Ross,” McDonald said.

“And I think it’s a mistake to have this debate in the context of whether Michael Ross is a good person or a bad person.”

Ross admitted killing eight women in eastern Connecticut and New York in the early 1980s, and raping most of his victims. He has been in prison for 20 years — 17 on Connecticut’s death row — for four murders.

In October, Ross told Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford that he had decided not to pursue any further appeals, and Clifford set an execution date. But the judge later ordered a hearing for Dec. 28 to determine if Ross is mentally competent to make that decision