SOMERS, Conn. – A serial killer who struggled to hasten his own death — and was forced to prove he wasn't out of his mind — awaited lethal injection early Friday in New England's first execution in 45 years.
Michael Ross (search), 45, was scheduled to be put to death at 2:01 a.m. after fighting off attempts by public defenders, death penalty foes and his own family to save his life.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York (search) rejected two last-minute appeals from Ross' relatives late Thursday afternoon, and theU.S. Supreme Court (search) rejected the appeals Thursday night.
Both courts rebuffed a lawsuit brought on behalf of Ross' father that claimed the execution would lead to a wave of suicide attempts among Connecticut inmates. They also rejected an attempt by Ross' sister intervene in his case and stop the execution.
"There are no further objections and we are fully prepared to carry out the order of the court," Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano (search) said.
Antonio Ponvert III, an attorney who represented Ross' father and has filed a number of appeals trying to block the execution, said he would not file any more.
"The whole thing is just disheartening to me and I think we're going to live to regret this day," Ponvert said.
Death penalty opponents warned that Ross' execution could break down a political and psychological barrier against capital punishment in New England and start a domino effect in the region.
The Ivy League-educated Ross was sent to death row for the murders of four young women and girls in Connecticut in the 1980s, and confessed to four more such slayings in Connecticut and New York. He also raped most of the women.
Last fall, he announced he was abandoning all remaining appeals — which could have kept him alive for many years — because his victims' families had suffered enough.
"I owe these people. I killed their daughters. If I could stop the pain, I have to do that. This is my right," the former insurance agent and Cornell University (search) graduate said last year. "I don't think there's anything crazy or incompetent about that."
Desperate to save his life, public defenders and Ross' family argued that Ross suffered from "death row syndrome" — that is, he had become deranged from living most of the past 18 years under a death sentence.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Ross had the right to give up his appeals.
"What we've seen in the last weeks and months are intermeddlers, and third parties seeking to delay or derail the lawful process," Blumenthal said.
Ross' family, friends and attorneys visited with him through the day and late into the night after he was moved in the morning to a holding cell near the death chamber at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers. He had with him a Bible, a book of Bible verses, a coffee cup and some candy.
"He seemed fine. He's still resolute. I didn't detect any change in him at all," T.R. Paulding, Ross' lawyer, said Thursday night.
Ross was hours from death in January when a federal judge scolded Ross' attorney and threatened to lift his law license for trying to hasten Ross' execution. The lawyer agreed to a new round of hearings on whether Ross was mentally competent.
At the hearing, two psychiatrists testified that he was mentally incompetent. They said he has a personality disorder that compels him to choose death to avoid looking cowardly. Two other experts disputed the finding of incompetence and said he was genuinely remorseful.
Last month, a judge again found Ross competent to decide his fate.
The last execution in New England was in 1960, when Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky (search) went to the electric chair in Connecticut. Of the six New England states, only Connecticut and New Hampshire have the death penalty. New Hampshire has no one on death row and has not executed anyone since 1939.
Edwin Shelley, whose 14-year-old daughter Leslie was Ross' seventh victim, said he planned to watch Ross die.
"It's going to be nice to come home and realize that the case is finished and that he has received his just rewards," Shelley said. "I think I will be very relaxed and at ease with myself."