After driving for an hour and half, 50 students had assembled Monday at Osborne Prison to protest the execution of Michael Ross. Within minutes of their arrival, they learned the execution had been postponed again.
In the latest stage of the legal proceedings surrounding the convicted rapist and serial killer, U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny earlier this week indefinitely postponed the execution — which had already been pushed back six days from its original date. Ross’s lawyer, T.R. Paulding, who had previously supported his endeavor to be executed, reversed course when Chatigny threatened to take Paulding’s law license pending new evidence questioning Ross’ mental condition. Paulding helped stop the execution just two hours before it would have taken place.
Kevin Abels ’05, who along with Emily Jones ’06 and Jessica Gusberg ’06 coordinated transportation for Yale students to a vigil planned for Ross’ execution, said he was clearly happy that no execution would take place.
“It’s definitely good news in the short term,” Abels said. “It’s a relief to know that Connecticut won’t be executing anyone. Personally, it’s very very uncomfortable for me to think of the state executing anyone, even if the person is on suicide watch.”
This vigil, as well as the one planned for the orignial execution date of Jan. 26, was organized by the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. On Jan. 26, it became clear during the course of the afternoon that the execution would be postponed, giving Yale students enough notice to cancel their attendance, Abels said. For Monday’s execution, campus groups such as Choose Life at Yale, ACLU, and Amnesty International helped publicize the event, and many students drove from New Haven to participate first-hand.
Daniel Nichanian ’08, who went to the second planned vigil prepared to protest, said the temporary postponement was not the message he had hoped to hear from the state.
“I do not consider the postponement of the vigil as a victory because the execution did not get cancelled all together,” Nichanian said. “The victory will take place the day Connecticut realizes the government does not have a right to kill people and finally abolishes the death penalty. It has already taken place in all of Europe and some states here. Connecticut is bound to follow.”
Had the execution taken place, Ross would have been the first person to be executed in Connecticut in 45 years.
Throughout the process, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell has maintained that she will not intervene on Ross’s behalf.
“I believe there are crimes and actions which are so repugnant to society as to warrant the death penalty,” Rell said in the statement. “When the process of the competency hearing is complete, assuming he is found competent and there are no further legal impediments, the state should move forward with his execution.”
Some Republican leaders of the General Assembly are questioning the decision to postpone the execution. Citing the transcript of a 55-minute conference call Friday between Chatigny and Paulding, they are now asking the judge to recuse himself from the case.
It was after that call that Paulding announced just more than an hour before the scheduled 2:01 a.m. execution Saturday that he might have a conflict of interest in the case, putting the execution on hold indefinitely.
–The Associated Press contributed to this story