A federal judge in Connecticut will postpone tomorrow’s scheduled execution of serial killer Michael Ross, which still could be the first use of the death penalty in New England in 45 years. The Christian Science Monitor says the Ross case has revived debate over capital punishment in a region where it runs against the political grain. Nearly 950 people have been put to death since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, but none in states north or east of Pennsylvania. Ross killed eight young women in the 1980s, raping most of them. Ross decided not to appeal, but public defenders and opponents of the death penalty, as well as Ross’s father, argue that he cannot make rational decisions regarding his execution.
If the execution does finally go forward, some observers say the event would reverberate across the region. “Will it start an avalanche in New England? No. Will it open the door to make it thinkable again? Yes,” says Robert Blecker, a professor of law at New York Law School and a supporter of the death penalty for the most vicious offenders. “It is already on the mind in Massachusetts. It makes it more imaginable. It makes it real again.” New England’s resistance to the death penalty stems in part from having the country’s lowest murder rate, says Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. Connecticut’s overwhelming support for putting Ross to death may reflect that residents want the worst possible punishment for a confessed serial killer. That is appropriate punishment, says Blecker. “Ross represents the worst of the worst. If anyone deserves to die, he is among them.”