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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2005, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
State counts down to killer's death
By Matthew Wells
BBC News, Connecticut

Michael Ross
Ross has been trying to hasten his own execution
The execution of a prisoner on death row does not make major news in US states like Texas or Florida.

But if Michael Ross is finally injected with poison in the small hours of Friday, it will be the first state-sanctioned killing in Connecticut - or anywhere else in the north-eastern New England states - for 45 years.

Ross murdered eight young women in Connecticut and New York during the early 1980s. He raped all but one of them.

In a case that is full of paradoxes, it is the serial killer himself who is hastening his own execution.

Ross is a diseased animal that society is well justified to flush down its sewer system
Lan Manh Tu
Victim's relative

He told a prison psychiatrist in a video-taped interview that seeing the mother of one of his victims on television had convinced him it was not worth fighting for his own life.

"She was crying and she said that every time we come to court it tears open our hearts again. 'I want this over one way or the other,' she said. I said to myself 'That's what I'm doing'," Ross said.

'Distorted' debate

Some doctors say that Ross is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder.

March in Hertford
Anti-death campaigners say the capital punishment is inhumane

Anti-death penalty campaigners - and family members - argue that he cannot therefore choose to die. State and federal judges have rejected these appeals, and he is due to be given a lethal injection at 0201 on Friday (0601GMT).

The Ross case has sparked wide debate over the death penalty in Connecticut.

Although just under half the population tell pollsters they are against capital punishment, almost 80% say that Ross deserves to be executed.

Nobody is in any doubt about the horrific nature of his crimes, but even some of those who suffered at his hands say they would rather see him stay in prison for life than be executed.

Earlier this year, Vivienne Dobson, who was brutally attacked and raped by Ross more than 20 years ago, held a news conference to denounce the ultimate sanction as being too lenient.

"I don't want to be a part of killing somebody else. That's not why we're here - we're not killers. He is, but we're not," Ms Dobson said.

'Ultimate control'

A few dozen like-minded protesters - marching under the banner of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty - began a 30-mile (50km) walk earlier this week, from a hill in the state capital, Hartford, where prisoners used to be executed during colonial times.

Member of the state judiciary committee Rep. John Kissel
Mr Kissel says Ross "committed an act of terror" against society

They will end it outside the execution chamber a few hours before the appointed hour of Ross' death.

The network's executive director, Robert Nave, said that having the death penalty in Connecticut was just helping Ross to stay on the front pages.

"Michael has ultimate control of this," he said. "Isn't it ironic that we are letting a person who has done such horrible things dictate public policy?"

Painful chapter

At any time up until the injection is administered, Ross could change his mind and start the appeal process rolling again.

I don't think we should be taking people's lives in the name of the state
Reverend Walt Everett

It is unlikely that any legal intervention will occur at this stage, said Mr Nave.

The execution was scheduled to happen in January but a federal judge issued a last-minute restraining order.

Despite a large Democratic Party majority in the state legislature, the last attempt to abolish Connecticut's death penalty was easily defeated.

Republican John Kissel of the state judiciary committee says Ross should have been executed long ago.

"This person has committed an act of terror and war against society and it's been very heinous," Mr Kissel said.

"If we are going to keep (the death penalty) on the books we need an expedited appeals process, so it can't go on interminably," he added.

"It's painful for the families of the victims, and I think the state as a whole would like to see some sort of closure."

Prayers for execution

People on their way to work in Hartford have clearly had enough of the whole Michael Ross saga.

Reverend Walt Everett
Rev. Everett believes "God has forgiven" Ross

Although some were keen to share their opinions on the death penalty in general, many impatiently told me they were sick of the publicity he was being given, and wished it would just stop.

Many relatives of the victims are praying for his execution.

"Ross is a diseased animal that society is well justified to flush down its sewer system," said Lan Manh Tu this week, in an Associated Press interview, whose sister was the first to be murdered.

The Reverend Walt Everett's son was murdered in Connecticut - by a different killer - in the late 1980s.

His response was to forgive the man, and even help his rehabilitation.

"I know Michael - I've visited him. When he's on medication, he's as sane as you or I," he told me as he set off on the protest march.

"I believe God has forgiven Michael, and he's a person who has some worth. I don't think we should be taking people's lives in the name of the state."

SEE ALSO
US killer execution put off again
01 Feb 05 |  Americas
Last-minute stay of US execution
29 Jan 05 |  Americas
The man who wants to be executed
25 Jan 05 |  Americas

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