As of this writing, New England has seen only one solitary execution in the past half-century.*
That one execution happened five years ago today: the lethal injection of serial murderer/rapist Michael Ross in Connecticut.
Condemned in 1987, Ross spent 17 years fighting execution before a 2004 volte face had him waiving his appeals in the interests of sparing victims’ families any further agony.
This precipitated an intense last-minute legal melee over whether the admittedly disturbed Ross possessed legally sufficient competency to pursue his own death. A scheduled execution in January was scratched at the last moment when a federal judge insisted on a competency determination.
A serial killer who consents to his own execution wouldn’t typically be the sort to attract a lot of sympathy, but in true-blue New England, any brush with the executioner is cause for public hand-wringing.
Ross, of course, was adjudged competent to drop his appeals, and that was that.
After the execution, one of the psychiatrists who disputed Ross’s competency to choose execution received a mailed taunt from the killer, dated May 10:
Check, and mate. You never had a chance!
And it seems our date’s principal reserved an even gnarlier gambit for the judge who once blocked his execution.
District Court jurist Robert Chatigny has found himself much in the news with Michael Ross since he was nominated by President Barack Obama for a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. That nomination has been held up thus far largely because Chatigny berated and threatened Ross’s attorney (the one who was trying to get his client executed) with disbarment.
* The last one before Michael Ross? Joseph Taborsky, electrocuted in Connecticut on May 17, 1960.
** His criminal career began in Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell is famous for its suicides, but Ross apparently couldn’t go through with his after he contemplated taking his own life.
Ross was also a graduate of something called Killingly High School. True story.