NEW LONDON, Conn. — A judge removed a hurdle to New England's first execution in more than 40 years, finding Wednesday that the public defender's office had no standing to intervene in the case of a serial killer who had stopped filing appeals.
Michael Ross, scheduled to be executed Jan. 26, fired his public defenders this year and retained a private attorney to help him move forward with his execution.
Ross, 45, has admitted killing eight women in Connecticut and New York, and is on death row for the murders of four young women in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s.
The public defender's office asked to step into the case so they could act in Ross' best interest, which they argued was to live. They contend Ross is not mentally competent to make a life-or-death decision.
"It is our belief that he is depressed and he doesn't want to fight anymore," said Gerard Smyth, Connecticut's chief public defender. "Effectively it's suicide on his part."
Judge Patrick Clifford turned down the request, as well as a request to postpone the execution while public defenders appeal Wednesday's ruling.
Ross has said he does not want to pursue appeals, preferring to spare the victims' families any further pain.
"What I see in Mr. Ross and his decision, with all apologies to the victims' families, is somewhat heroic and courageous," said his private attorney, T.R. Paulding Jr.
Prosecutors also opposed the public defenders' attempt to intervene.
"What is in the best interest of Michael Ross, Michael Ross has to speak to, and he has, quite eloquently," said Assistant State's Atty. Harry Weller.
Last week, Clifford questioned Ross about his decision to go forward with the execution and scheduled a competency hearing for Dec. 28. Clifford said Wednesday that he would reconsider the public defenders' motions if Ross was ruled incompetent, but said he had no reason to believe that would happen.