[Marxism] "Volunteering" to be executed as state-sponsored suicide

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu May 12 23:20:11 MDT 2005

The first time I remember hearing the term "right to die" was in the
case of Gary Gilmore, the first person to be executed after the Supreme
Court approved revised death penalty laws in 1976.  Gilmore refused to
appeal and said he wanted to die, so the media portrayed his execution
as the exercise of a right.  Protesters were answered with the
statement, "Well, he wants to die." I began to wonder if execution was
going to become a free service the state offered to everybody -- part of
the social safety net.
Fred Feldman

Serial killer's willing execution sparks death penalty row
Campaigners say state is sponsoring suicide

Jamie Wilson in Washington
Friday May 13, 2005


A serial killer who has said he wants to die was due to be given a
lethal injection in New England this morning in a case that has provoked
claims that the state is encouraging suicide. 
Michael Ross can stop his execution at any time until the moment he is
given the injection by saying he wants to appeal, but has shown little
inclination to do so. 

His family has been campaigning for him to be taken off death row,
launching appeals of their own which have been ignored. 

Ross was sentenced to death for murdering and raping four young women in
eastern Connecticut in the early 1980s and has confessed to four other
murders in Connecticut and New York. He was due to be given a lethal
injection at one minute past 2am local time today, becoming the first
person executed in the state for 45 years. 

But his family and anti-death penalty campaigners claim the lethal
injection amounts to state-sponsored suicide, and would result in
"suicide contagion" spreading among prisoners. 

"These prisoners will try to kill themselves in the hours, days and
weeks following Michael's death," claimed a failed lawsuit filed by
Ross's father this week. 

Ross, 45, decided to end his appeals and accept his death sentence last
year, and was hours away from being put to death in January when his
lawyer, under pressure from a federal judge, asked for a new hearing to
examine whether he was sane. 

A superior court judge found him competent after a hearing last month,
and the state supreme court upheld that ruling this week . 

Diane Polan, a lawyer for the killer's sister, Donna Dunham, argued that
Ross has been coerced into deciding to die by his own narcissism and the
harsh conditions of living on death row. 

"Saying he is competent is not the same as saying he's capable," Ms
Polan said. 

Ross's case has divided opinion. A video recorded during a psychiatric
evaluation this year showing Ross laughing and putting his thumbs up to
the camera has been shown repeatedly on television in recent weeks. 

Anti-death penalty campaigners claim it shows he is mentally disturbed,
while others say his self-assurance suggests he is in control of his own

"He will always hold in his hand the opportunity to change his mind,"
Christopher Morano, the chief state attorney, whose office prosecuted
Ross, told the New York Times. 

If he is executed, Ross will join more than a hundred "volunteers" who
have waived appeals and hastened their deaths since capital punishment
was reinstated in the US more than a generation ago. 

Like inmates on death row across America, Ross has spent most of his
sentence locked in a small cell with no access to prison sports or
education programmes, and no interaction with other inmates. 

In an essay posted on the internet by the Canadian Coalition Against the
Death Penalty, Ross describes his sliver of a window as offering "a
wonderful view of the razor-wire fencing and outdoor recreation yard of
the prison next door". 

Of the 963 people executed in the past 30 years, one in eight asked for
their appeals to be dropped. Last year the rate rose to one in six. In
Florida alone, eight of the last 12 executions were people who ended
their legal fights. 

Those who have ended their appeals include the youngest, a 22-year-old
killer in Oklahoma; the first, Gary Gilmore, executed by firing squad in
Utah in 1977; and the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. 

Guardian Unlimited C Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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