It's Time for Me to Die
by Michael Ross
1999

Intro | What's It Like to Live on Death Row? | Insanity and Physiology | Persecutor as Victim | Execute the Legally Insane?


One of my doctors once told me that I am, in a sense, also a victim -- a victim of an affliction that no one would want. How dare I consider myself a victim when the real victims are dead? How dare I consider myself a victim when the families of my true victims have to live day by day with the pain of the loss I caused?

So what if it is an affliction? So what if I was really sick? Does that really make any difference? Does that absolve me of my responsibility for the deaths of eight totally innocent women? Does it make the women any less dead? Does it ease the pain of their families? No!

I close my eyes and I see the families of the women whom I killed. Even though my trial was over a decade ago, I cannot make the visions go away. I can see Mrs. Shelley on the witness stand testifying about the last time she saw her daughter alive. I can still see the agony in her face and hear the pain in her voice as she described how she and her husband searched for their daughter, and I can vividly recall how I actually saw them searching along the roadway the day after her death. At the time I didn't know who they were, but I knew whom they were searching for. I close my eyes and I am haunted by the vision of Mrs. Stavinsky on the witness stand testifying how on Thanksgiving Day she had to go to the morgue to identify her daughter's body. "She was hurt bad," she testified as she broke down and cried. "She was hurt real bad."

I wish I knew how to tell them just how sorry I am. But there are no words. How do you tell someone you are sorry when you have stolen something so very precious from them, when those very words sound so inadequate that you are ashamed to even speak them in their presence for fear of making things worse? I cannot even face them, never mind ask for their forgiveness. And while I would really like them to understand what happened and why, I don't expect they will ever truly understand the insanity that drove me to kill their loved ones.

And that is the big question: Was I really insane? Whether I was sane or insane can't change the facts of what happened, can't bring anyone back, can't ease the families' pain. And it can't cleanse my guilt, or wash the blood off of my hands. It can't change anything, resolve anything, or absolve anything. I think that is part of the reason why I volunteered for execution and more recently tried to accept the death penalty and avoid another full-blown penalty hearing.

When I first came to death row I was filled with anger at how the prosecutor had twisted and distorted the facts of my case. I was consumed with an intense desire to prove that my mental illness does in fact exist, and that the mental illness did in fact deprive me of my ability to control my actions, and that my mental illness was in fact the cause of my criminal conduct. I wanted so badly for everyone to understand and believe that I really was sick and that it was the sickness within me that did the killing. I wanted to prove that I wasn't the animal the state portrayed me to be. I just wanted the truth to be known.

It took years for that anger and intense need to exonerate myself to leave me. With the help of my medication, I understand my past much better now, and I am much more at peace with myself now, and not so much concerned with what others might think of me. I would still like to prove the real reasons why I committed such atrocious acts, but it is no longer an overriding concern of mine.

There are times, usually late at night when things finally begin to quiet down around here, that I sit in my cell and wonder, "What the hell am I doing here?" That is a pretty silly question; obviously I'm here because I've killed many people and I deserve to be here. And that is okay on one level. But I think of the underlying reasons why I did those terrible things. I believe I am severely mentally ill and that the illness drove me to commit my crimes. I know that I may never be able to prove that in a court of law, but in here, in my cell, I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I know what the truth is. I know that I have an illness and that I'm no more responsible for having that illness than another person is for getting cancer or developing diabetes. But somehow "You're sick, and sometimes people just get sick" doesn't seem to cut it. I feel responsible. I wonder if things in my childhood may have made a difference. My mother was institutionalized twice by our family doctor because of how she was treating, or rather abusing, us kids. Maybe things would have been different if I had run away as my younger brother did. But this is an exercise in futility, because you can't change the past -- yet at the same time you can't help but wonder what might have been.

In a way, I guess I am luckier than most inmates, even though I am sitting here on death row. I know and long ago accepted that I can never be freed, that in fact to release me would be to condemn others to their deaths. Regardless of the reasons why I kill -- be it premeditated murder, as is generally thought, or the result of insanity -- the fact remains that I kill, and there is no reason to believe that will ever change. That's not to say I don't want to get out of this place, for it is very dehumanizing here, and I greatly long for the outside. But I feel a sense of contentment knowing I will never be released. I know that must sound strange coming from a sadistic killer like me, but I do feel as if a huge load has been lifted from my shoulders.


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