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October 12, 2012

After capital repeal, should comdemned Connecticut murderer be able to seek his execution?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article from Connecticut headlined "Murderer Steven Hayes Says He Wants To Die," which starts this way:

Steven Hayes, the notorious killer who sits on death row for the 2007 slayings of a Cheshire woman and her two daughters, wants to waive his appeals and proceed to his execution, a path that serial killer Michael Ross took before being put to death in 2005.

In a letter to the Courant, Hayes, 49, said he is the subject of "cruel and unusual punishment" by prison staff at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, treatment he claims has "been escalating" since March 2012. "I was willing to live with the intense grief from my past actions, and I still am willing," Hayes wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 29, 2012. "However, I cannot live with the intense tourcher (sic), torment, harassment, and the resulting psychological trauma dished out by the Dept. of Corr. staff here at Northern. I was sentenced to death, not sentenced to tourcher (sic) and punitive treatment until death."

Hayes said he would be making "a formal announcement" about his decision to go to "the death chamber" during "the 2nd week of October," but he did not say how he would announce it.

Michael Courtney, head of the state public defenders office's capital defense unit, which is handling Hayes' appeal, declined to discuss any recent discussions he and other attorneys have had with Hayes. "It's not uncommon for death-row inmates who are held in isolation with little or no connection to the outside world or independent mental-health treatment to deteriorate to the point of considering volunteering for execution," Courtney said.

In Connecticut, the appeals process involves an automatic sentence review by the state Supreme Court, so Hayes' decision would not affect that. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Hayes could then forgo the usual progression of state habeas corpus motions and federal appeals that occur before a convict is put to death. With those appeals in place, legal experts have said, it could easily be 20 years or longer before Hayes is executed.

What Hayes wrote in the Sept. 29 letter conflicts with what he told The Courant earlier this year. In a prison interview, Hayes said he promised one of his defense attorneys, Thomas J. Ullmann, that he would not waive his appeals and seek execution.

Ullmann confirmed the conversation, telling The Courant in July: "He has made a commitment to me that he will not pull a Michael Ross." Ross decided to waive his appeals in 2004 and, after a protracted legal battle, died by lethal injection in May 2005. Ross was the first person executed in Connecticut since 1960. He had spent 18 years on death row.

Word of Hayes' decision to seek execution comes while questions loom about whether those on death row should still face execution in light of the repeal last April of the death penalty.

Though state legislators abolished capital punishment for future offenses, Hayes and the other nine men on death row and those with pending death-eligible cases still face execution. The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty for the condemned inmates in light of the repeal. Those arguments will be made at a later date.

October 12, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

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\\ With those appeals in place, legal experts have said, it could easily be 20 years or longer before Hayes is executed. //

Professor Berman, all Americans should encourage the rapid execution of this convicted, admitted multi-rapist-murderer-torturer who accepts such a punishment.

Unfortunately, the gits who have helped put the iniquitous 20-year-delay in place will surely find many allies in seeking to protect the life of this life-taker.
[Perhaps bloggers to this site.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 12, 2012 2:07:43 PM

A better question: what would the people of my state possibly gain by forcing him to live another 25 years, dragging out this nightmare for Dr. Petit and expending millions of dollars on totally frivolous appeals?

It may all be academic anyways since I believe Hayes will probably choose to resume his appeals very soon.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 12, 2012 6:58:02 PM

If the murderer finds it so hurtful to stay alive, doesn't "the people of [your] state" gain something, such as retributive effects, to keep him alive?

The death of the murderer doesn't end the "nightmare" to the victim. The people are still dead, which is horrible, and something that will never go away. This will be true once the person is executed & what gains victims a sense of peace is determinative on the specific individual.

It might be academic but there are "volunteers," so the issue is always out there. In one case some time back in my own state, a person was in effect allowed to end his life sooner by being transferred from a state w/o a death penalty to one that had one, before serving out his sentence for a local murder. The brothers of the victim in question divided on if this was a good idea.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 13, 2012 2:24:30 PM

@Joe
"If the murderer finds it so hurtful to stay alive, doesn't "the people of [your] state" gain something, such as retributive effects, to keep him alive?"
We'll show you, we're going to force you to live! Honestly, the only thing we'll gain is a dead prison guard or inmate should he lose his temper.

"The death of the murderer doesn't end the "nightmare" to the victim."
I never said it did, only that dragging out the appeals will only make things harder for Dr. Petit. By the way, Petit wants Hayes and Komisarjevsky dead.

"The people are still dead, which is horrible, and something that will never go away."
So we shouldn't execute them because the death penalty doesn't have the magical ability to bring the dead back to life?

"This will be true once the person is executed & what gains victims a sense of peace is determinative on the specific individual."
In this case, Dr. Petit just wants the state to get on with it.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 13, 2012 7:20:22 PM

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