It's Time for Me to Die
by Michael Ross
Intro | What's It Like to Live on Death Row? | Insanity and Physiology | Persecutor as Victim | Execute the Legally Insane?
So where do I stand today? The state prosecutor will once again seek the death penalty in the upcoming resentencing hearing. The only real issue that needs to be resolved at that hearing is whether or not my "mental capacity was significantly impaired." Under the law that applies in my case, if I am found to be suffering from a "significant mental illness," that will be considered a statutory mitigating factor that by Connecticut law would preclude my being sentenced to death. In that case I would be automatically sentenced to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release. The prosecution's strategy will undoubtedly be as it was last time -- to inflame the jury's passions into ignoring the evidence of a psychiatric illness.
So why was a new sentencing hearing ordered? An amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief was filed by a group of eminent psychiatrists from Connecticut. They were connected to neither the state nor the defense, but they got involved because -- as their brief states -- of their concern "that the psychiatric issues were distorted at both the guilt and penalty phases of trial." They summed up our main point of contention perfectly: "By allowing Dr. Miller to testify in a way that led the jury to believe that Mr. Ross could control his behavior -- when in fact he and all the other psychiatric experts were of the view that Mr. Ross could not--the court allowed the jury to be affirmatively misled." The Connecticut State Supreme Court agreed.
Knowing the situation as I do, and wishing to spare all concerned the emotional agony of going through a new trial -- especially the families of my victims -- I wrote a letter to the prosecutor on September 25, 1994, which said in part:
There is no need for the penalty hearing to go forward. There is no need and no purpose served in unnecessarily opening old wounds. There is no need and no purpose served in inflicting further emotional harm or distress on the families of my victims. I do not wish to hurt these people further--it's time for healing.
I had volunteered for execution precisely to avoid the situation that we currently find ourselves in. And I am willing to hand you the death penalty "on a silver platter" on the condition that you will work with me to get this over with as quickly and as painlessly as possible. There is no need to drag the families of my victims through more lengthy and disturbing court proceedings. Please allow me to go into the courtroom to admit to my actions; to accept responsibility for my actions; and to accept the death penalty as punishment for those actions. I'm not asking you to do this for me, but for the families involved, who do not deserve to suffer further and who, in some small way, might gain a sense of peace of mind by these actions and my execution.
For almost four years I worked with the state's attorney to fashion an agreement that would allow the death penalty to be imposed without going through a full-blown penalty hearing. We signed that agreement on March 11, 1998. However, on August 1, 1998, a Superior Court judge rejected the agreement because he found it "unsettling" that the prosecutor would work with me on my wish to be executed without a fight. He ruled: "Shortcuts on procedure where an individual's life hangs in the balance cannot be tolerated under our system of criminal justice." This very effectively destroyed four years of hard work. Since I cannot appeal his decision, it appears that I have no choice but to prepare for the long and painful penalty hearing. I very much regret that I have failed the families of my victims. Jury selection and testimony for this new penalty hearing should begin in a few months.
Maybe this sad story is an indictment of our current medical system and societal attitudes -- especially in how we treat the mentally ill. We can begin by treating mental illness as just that: an illness that needs to be recognized and treated instead of stigmatized. Without a doubt there are other Michael Rosses out there in various stages of development. They need places where they can go for help, and they need to know that it is okay for them to go for that help. One of the most difficult and painful things for me to deal with today is to know that had I begun to receive just a one-cc injection of Depo-Lupron once a month fifteen years ago, eight women would be alive today. The problem is real, but the issue of sexual deviancy is a taboo topic in our society. We would much rather turn our backs to the problem and pretend that it doesn't exist.
Am I trying to blame society for my illness? Am I trying to imply that you, as a member of society, are responsible for my turning into a killer? No, of course not. But I am saying that society needs to learn and to make the necessary changes. It's easy for you to call me "evil," and to condemn me to death. But if that is all that happens, it will be a terrible waste, for in a sense you will be condemning yourselves to a future filled with Michael Rosses. It's now up to you to change the future.
As of 12/25/00, Michael Ross remains on Connecticut's death row.