Saturday, May 21, 2005

May 13, 2005

... the first convict executed in New England in 45 years...

Last Meal: Ross lunched on a cheeseburger and hash browns, and at 3 p.m. For his late meal, Ross ate the regular prison meal of the day, which was turkey a la king with rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit and a beverage.

The skinny: Michael Bruce Ross, an insurance agent and a serial killer who admitted killing eight women in the 1980s, was the first convict executed in New England in 45 years.

Ross was the first person executed in Connecticut since May 17, 1960, when Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky was electrocuted for a spree of slayings.

More skinny: Mr. Ross, 45, grew up on an egg farm in eastern Connecticut.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1983, Ross accosted a nineteen year old woman on the grounds of a State Hospital. He forcefully pulled her into a wooded area and ordered her to remove her clothing. He then sexually assaulted her and, after ordering her to turn over on her stomach, strangled her. Before leaving, he covered her body with leaves.

On June 13, 1984, Ross accosted a seventeen year old as she was walking along Route 12. After a short conversation, he pulled her over a stone wall, forcing her to go with him into a wooded area that led to an open field. There he sexually assaulted her, forced her to turn over on her stomach, and then strangled her.

On Easter Sunday, 1984, Ross picked up two fourteen year old hitchhikers on Route. Once the girls had entered his car, he drove them over their protests past their intended destination. When one girl tried to force the defendant to stop the car by threatening him with a knife, he disarmed her and continued into Rhode Island. At Beach Pond, he parked his car and bound both girls hand and foot. He then untied one's feet and forced her to walk a short distance from his car, where he assaulted her sexually, turned her over on her stomach and strangled her. Returning to the car, the defendant killed the second. without sexually assaulting her. He then placed the bodies of both girls in his car and drove back to Preston, Connecticut, where he deposited their bodies in a culvert.

Ross, a Cornell University graduate who studied economics, confessed to the murder of all four women and four others during the same time period. At his trial, the defendant did not deny having committed the kidnappings, rapes, and murders, and asserted an insanity defense.

1987, Ross was convicted for the murders of four of the eight women he confessed to killing. It took the jury 86 minutes of deliberations to convict him and only four hours to decide on his punishment.

Many legal machinations: Although Ross said he was personally opposed to the death penalty, he wanted his execution to serve as closure for his victims' families and last year he waived all remaining appeals.

That did not stop another round of competency hearings, appeals and last-minute legal machinations by lawyers seeking to halt the execution. Attorney Diane Polan represented Ross' sister, Donna Dunham, in efforts to intervene on behalf of her brother. Another suit, filed on behalf of state inmates, claims that Mr. Ross's execution would "cause suicide contagion among suicidal and suicide-prone prisoners." (we could only hope) if Ross was allowed to willingly go to his death.

Leading up to: Visits consumed most of Ross' last day. He awoke about 5:45 a.m. and had a breakfast of oatmeal and grapefruit. Ross watched television and read newspapers until 8:10 a.m., when he was moved to the execution holding cell.

Where formerly Ross could hold hands with visitors, now he could not. Only priests were allowed physical contact, necessary so they could give him the Holy Eucharist, which Ross received at 9 a.m. later he received last rites.

Butler said he and Ross joked Thursday morning about the "Hannibal Lecter death cell," a reference to the cannibal psychiatrist in the thriller movie "Silence of the Lambs."

Because of his status as a volunteer, Mr. Ross held the right to change his mind up until the moment of the lethal injection and to say he wanted to appeal. "All he has to do is say so and the machinery of death will stop," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said..

Among his possessions was a Bible, a book of Bible verses and some candy.

Money quote:
"We wish to have him destroyed. Mr. Ross is a diseased animal that society is well justified to flush down its sewer system." -Lan Manh Tu, brother of Ross' first victim. her body was found in 1981 in a gorge at Cornell University.

Last words and such: Ross made no statement before his death.

Factoids: Ross was the....

22nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
966th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Connecticut in 2005
1st murderer executed in Connecticut since 1976

The ranks of death penalty opponents had swelled to nearly 300 as they marched through the chilled air to the driveway of the prison where Ross was executed. Candlelight highlighted expressions that ranged from tearful to stoic as they learned of Ross' death by word of mouth rippling through the crowd. Jacob Grossouw, 16 of Enfield, said he was shocked. "I don't know how to feel. I can't believe they just killed a man," he said.

By 6:30 p.m., a group of teenage girls came to the site to make their own signs and show their support for the death penalty. "I was chanting this all day in school," said Kaylah Winter, 16 of Somers, who was a holding a sign that said, "Turn Ross into Moss."

High above them Trooper One, the Connecticut State Police helicopter hovered. It was prepared to chase any aircraft that approached within 1,000 feet of the prison.

Mr. Ross pushed Connecticut toward its 74th execution since it adopted capital punishment in 1893.

Over two decades in prison, Ross sought to parlay his criminal notoriety into celebrity status. He wrote articles for psychiatric journals and granted dozens of interviews. He distributed a newsletter from prison that detailed his incarceration and his views about the death penalty.