Precinct 333

Monday, January 10, 2005

ACLU Seeks To Stop Execution – Over Prisoner’s Objection

The case seems like every other death penalty appeal – throw a bunch or arguments at the wall and see if they stick. The one the ACLU is riding hardest is the one that claims lethal injection is causes intense pain, and is therefore cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut argued Friday that serial killer Michael Ross could suffer "excruciating pain" during his execution by lethal injection Jan. 26, and asked a federal judge to stay the execution and hold hearings on the process the state plans to use.

"I believe what's really at stake here is the humanity of everyone in this room and the humanity of the state of Connecticut," attorney Annette Lamoreaux, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, argued to U.S. District Judge Christopher F. Droney.

But here is a twist that seems really striking to me. The condemned doesn't want the appeal to move forward, so the ACLU is arguing he isn't competent to determine his own legal strategy!

The local ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ross' father, Dan Ross, as "next friend" to his son. It claims Michael Ross is mentally incompetent, due to an array of documented mental disorders. Lamoreaux claims that by "volunteering" to be executed, Ross is endangering his own health, "as it amounts to state-assisted suicide."

Ross last week was found to be mentally competent to control his legal affairs by Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford in New London.

Ross, appearing on five monitors throughout the courtroom, was adamant he did not want the lawsuit to proceed.

"This lawsuit came as a complete surprise to me," Ross said. "I don't need anyone filing anything on my behalf.

"I believe you should dismiss the case," Ross told Droney. "They do not have standing" to bring the lawsuit.

Ross, a Cornell University graduate, is well-versed on death penalty case law and recent controversies concerning the lethal combination of drugs used in the execution process.

So the man is has epertise in the area and understands the issues. The only thing that the ACLU is hanging its hat on is that the guy doesn't want their help. Why is this case not being dismissed? He is making a choice on legal strategy.

Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Harry Weller argued that even the ACLU's expert, anesthesiologist Mark Heath, acknowledged that if the drugs were administered properly, Ross would die a humane death. Weller also emphasized there is no evidence to suggest Ross is incompetent.

"The claim here is that if someone decides to accept execution, they must be incompetent," Weller said. "I think that's the theory that's driven all this litigation."

Talk about your crazy defenses – “If he is willing to accept the judgement of the court, he is incapable of directing his own defense.”


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