Friday, December 10, 2004

Today in Connecticut....

First, the killer...from the NYTimes

Michael Bruce Ross, who confessed to strangling eight girls and young women, testified on Thursday that he wanted the State of Connecticut to go ahead with his scheduled execution so it could serve as "a signpost" marking the day the families of his victims, as well as his own family, began to heal.

At a hearing to determine whether he is competent to be executed, as scheduled, on Jan. 26, Mr. Ross - his brown hair in a tight ponytail and his hands meeting precisely at the fingertips - told Judge Patrick Clifford of Superior Court, "I don't know, I'm just trying to bring it to an end, judge."

But the judge, while saying his "instincts" told him Mr. Ross was competent, ordered yet another psychological evaluation before the execution date.

"Nothing is being stayed at this point," Judge Clifford said, anticipating speculation that the evaluation could delay the execution.

Yet the psychological evaluation, which would be the third Mr. Ross has received since confessing to the killings in 1984, was clearly a step Mr. Ross did not want to take, and he shook his head in frustration.

Mr. Ross, who has decided against pursuing further appeals, would be the first person executed in the Northeast in more than 40 years. State political leaders, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, say they will not step in. It was unclear whether the new evaluation would help or hurt a move by public defenders seeking to stop the execution on the ground that Mr. Ross is not competent to make the decision to be executed.

The Protestors....

About 100 opponents of the death penalty marched in the rain from Hartford Superior Court to the state Capitol Friday to protest the scheduled execution of serial killer Michael Ross.

Carrying placards, including some that read "The Death Penalty is Murder," the group called for a repeal of the state's capital punishment law.

Robert Nave, the executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said they are concerned that if Ross is executed, it will become easier for the state to put others to death.

"I believe that Connecticut has been a beacon of light in our civilization, and I would hate to lose that status," Nave said.

Ross is on death row for four murders in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s. He has admitted killing eight women in Connecticut and New York.

His scheduled Jan. 26 execution would be New England's first since Connecticut executed Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky in 1960 for a series of murders and robberies.

The protesters were joined at the rally by at least one person holding up a sign in favor of the death penalty. Francis Niwinski Jr., 56, of Bristol, whose brother Joseph was murdered in 2000, is hoping the man convicted in that case is sentenced to death next week.

"What do you do with trash?" he asked rhetorically. "You bury it."

State Rep. Jim Amann, D-Milford, who is expected to be the next House Speaker, said he does not expect a repeal to pass. Connecticut already has one of the most restrictive death penalties in the nation, he said. The state allows a capital charge only under certain circumstances, such as a multiple murder, a murder committed during a sexual assault or the killing of a law enforcement officer.

Getting the death penalty in the state, "is like winning a gold medal with a broken foot, it is almost impossible," he said. "We are not going to become Texas. There will be no execution of the week."