High court lifts stay on Conn. execution

/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a stay of execution for a serial killer who wants to be put to death, but another court order continued to block what would be New England’s first execution in 45 years.

The high court, without comment, voted 5-4 to lift the stay, but a temporary restraining order blocking the execution of Michael Ross remains in effect. The state will ask a federal appeals court to throw out the restraining order at a hearing Friday.

“Michael is relieved, but he knows we’re not out of the woods yet,” said attorney T.R. Paulding, who has been working with Ross to end all appeals. “He is still very firm and hoping the execution will go forward.”

The execution, originally set for Wednesday, was rescheduled for Saturday at 2:01 a.m., “barring any legal impediments,” said Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett.

Question of competence
Ross, on death row for strangling four young women and girls in eastern Connecticut in the early 1980s, last year fired his public defenders and gave up any remaining appeals. The public defender’s office and Ross’ father have tried to block the execution against his wishes, claiming Ross is not competent to accept his execution.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny had issued the stay Monday, deciding that public defenders should be allowed to present evidence that the strain of living for years on death row made Ross incompetent.

Chief Public Defender Gerard Smyth said Thursday’s lifting of the stay ends his office’s attempts to block the execution. A request by the Missionary Society of Connecticut to block the execution also was rejected without comment Thursday by the Supreme Court.

The remaining obstacle to Ross’ execution is a 10-day restraining order Chatigny issued Wednesday in response to a separate civil rights lawsuit filed by Ross’ father.

Among other things, Dan Ross claims Connecticut is denying him his constitutional rights to associate with his son by executing him while knowing that he may not be competent.

Besides the murders for which he has been condemned, Ross has admitted killing four other young women in Connecticut and New York. He raped most of the victims.