The fate of Connecticut death row inmate Michael Ross may depend on the viability of a defense known as “death row syndrome,” reports the New Haven Register. Ross, 45, whose execution has been postponed, had been found competent by a judge to forgo further appeals. Public defenders who previously represented Ross have argued that he suffers from death row syndrome, in which inmates become so despondent they volunteer to be executed. In a 1998 article submitted to a psychiatric journal, Ross described the hu-miliation he felt in his first year on death row, with 24-hour prison guards watching him change and use the toilet. “You cannot begin to imagine what that absolute and total lack of privacy does to you,” Ross wrote.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal rejected the notion of death row syndrome, calling it “unspecific, vague, and speculative.” Stephen Bright, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and head of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said the condition is real. “I have seen some people who have become psychotic as a result of being on death row,” said Bright, who has represented many people facing the death penalty. No U.S. death sentence in America has been overturned on a death row syndrome defense, said to Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C., which opposes executions.