NEW HAVEN, Connecticut – Removing a major hurdle to New England's first execution in 45 years, a Connecticut judge ruled Friday that serial killer Michael Ross (search) is mentally competent to abandon his death row appeals.
"Michael Ross, a competent individual, has the right to make this voluntary decision concerning whether to pursue any further appeals regardless of what others may feel about his decision," Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford wrote.
Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano (search) said the state "will proceed in accordance with today's decision to carry out the sentence."
Ross, 45, is scheduled to be die by lethal injection May 11. He has admitted killing and raping eight young women in Connecticut and New York in the early 1980s.
Ross fought off attempts by public defenders, death penalty opponents and his own family to stop his execution last year and came within hours of death in January. His attorney asked for a new competency hearing only after being chastised by a federal judge for helping Ross hasten his execution.
The Connecticut judge's ruling came after a six-day hearing in which psychiatrists gave conflicting assessments of Ross' mental competence.
The decision is expected to touch off another flurry of appeals, but where those appeals will come from remains unclear.
A lawyer for Ross' father said Friday the only person with standing to appeal the decision is the special counsel appointed by the judge to argue Ross was incompetent — Thomas Groark (search).
Groark told The Hartford Courant for Saturday's editions that he is carefully considering his options. Still, it was not clear whether his duties as special counsel continue now that the hearings have ended.
Ross' attorney, T.R. Paulding, faxed a copy of the ruling to the serial killer behind bars and said Ross was relieved.
"He's hopeful that this time around maybe this will put an end to the court proceedings, so he can spend some time to get mentally and emotionally prepared for May 11," Paulding said.
At the competency hearings, some experts said Ross suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder that forces him to make decisions that allow him to look good publicly. They said they believe he is incapable of choosing to live because looking cowardly would be a blow to his ego.
Others said they believe Ross' insistence that he is genuinely sorry for the pain he caused and does not want to force the families to sit through years of court battles and news coverage.
The judge said he found the latter argument more persuasive.
"His decision is a product of his free will," Clifford wrote. "A rational choice does not have to be a sensible decision, although Ross' choice flows logically from his expressed moral views."
The last execution in New England was in 1960, when Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky went to the electric chair in Connecticut.