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Connecticut Killer's Execution Delayed

Judge Reprimands Prisoner's Lawyer

By Pat Eaton-Robb
Associated Press
Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page A13

SOMERS, Conn., Jan. 29 -- New England's first execution in 45 years was abruptly postponed early Saturday after a federal judge reprimanded the serial killer's attorney, saying he was "terribly, terribly wrong" for trying to help end his client's life.

Michael Ross -- who has asked to die and has dropped all appeals -- was to be put to death by injection at 2:01 a.m. Saturday. But shortly after midnight, the execution was rescheduled for 9 p.m. Monday because Ross's attorney said he needed to address a possible conflict of interest.

Convicted serial killer Michael Ross is scheduled to die Monday.

The lawyer, T.R. Paulding, would not say what he needed to consider but noted that his client did not ask for the delay.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had rejected Ross's father's pleas to spare his son, clearing the way for the execution.

But Paulding's announcement came hours after a federal judge accused him of ignoring new information from another inmate and a prison guard who have said Ross wanted to die only because of deplorable death row conditions, according to records released by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ross, 45, an Ivy League graduate who terrorized eastern Connecticut and New York in the 1980s, has confessed to eight murders including that of Dzung Ngoc Tu of Bethesda. He hired Paulding last year to help expedite his execution.

Ross has said he decided to drop his appeals to spare the victims' families additional agony. But U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny said another inmate and a prison guard have indicated that Ross simply wanted to escape poor conditions on death row.

"I see this happening and I can't live with it myself, which is why I'm on the phone right now," Chatigny said in a telephone conference with Paulding, according to records. "What you are doing is terribly, terribly wrong."

Chatigny warned that Paulding could lose his law license if the new information proved true, according to court records.

"You better be prepared to deal with me if in the wake of this an investigation is conducted and it turns out that what [the inmate] says and what this former program director says is true, because I'll have your law license," Chatigny said.

Relatives of his victims said they were shocked by the turn of events.

"He's guilty. He wants to die. So if he isn't executed, whom would you execute?" said Lan Manh Tu, whose sister, Dzung Ngoc Tu, was Ross's first known victim.

Raymond and Ellen Roode, whose daughter, April Brunais, was killed by Ross, said they do not believe he will ever be executed.

"It's been 20 years for those girls who are in their graves," Ellen Roode said. "It's too bad."

The state must execute Ross by 11:59 p.m. Monday, or its death warrant expires. That would force officials to ask for a new one.

Of the six New England states, only Connecticut and New Hampshire have the death penalty.

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