Catch-22 for Murderers


However you feel about capital punishment (I'm ambivalent for several reasons), you have to admit there is something screwy about this situation: Public defenders argue, in essence, that serial murderer Michael Ross should not be executed because he wants to be executed. They are trying to prevent Ross' execution, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, by having him declared mentally incompetent.

"I owe these people," Ross says of his victims' families. "I killed their daughters. If I could stop the pain, I have to do that. This is my right. I don't think there's anything crazy or incompetent about that."

But a psychiatrist who will testify at Ross' competency hearing says convicts who spend years on death row develop "a desperate need to regain control," which "underlies an inmate's decision to volunteer [for execution] by waiving his appeals and dismissing his attorneys." That argument suggests such a decision is always suspect, calling into question the convict's ability to make it. In other words, only murderers who are not ready for execution are ready for execution.