LIFE, DEATH

and what's just and fair

There's a sick irony in two news stories that hit the airwaves, cable networks and Internet today. Court judgments in both cases very well may determine whether two individuals who couldn't be more different will either live or die. These are interesting times that are testing some very fundamental beliefs, core beliefs, in all of us.

in Connecticut ...

The great blizzard of 2005 didn't shut down the State of Connecticut on Monday, January 24, thus allowing a federal judge to intervene in the scheduled Wednesday execution of convicted serial killer Michael Ross.

(AP)A federal judge Monday postponed the execution of a serial killer who had tried to end his appeals and was set to become the first person put to death in New England in nearly 45 years.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny said he wants to hear more evidence about the mental capacity of Michael Ross. The judge said the delay would last until a full hearing can be held on Ross' competency. He did not immediately set a date for the hearing.

For the uninitiated, Michael B. Ross was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of four teenage girls in New London, Connecticut, in 1983 and 1984, as well as the murder of 2 other women in 1982.

The Second Circuit Court of appeals in New York will be in session on Tuesday and may overrule Chatigny's decision. It's another chapter in an 18-year legal battle over whether a man who has admitted to killing eight human beings should be put to death for his crimes.

If it's perfectly legal to have an unwanted fetus methodically aborted and unemotionally dumped into a bio-med waste container, then we should have no problem methodically executing Michael Ross. For the hand wringing, anti-death penalty types out there, find some solace in this: Ross will get a much more dignified disposal of his remains than the aborted fetus does.

and in Florida ...

Terri Schiavo has been in a coma since 1990. Her husband wants her feeding tube removed; Terri's family feels otherwise. One can appreciate both sides of this story, at least.

Enter the legal system. The feeding tube had been removed directly following a court decision. Governor Jeb Bush got involved, a new Florida law was passed and the feeding tube was reattached. Now the Florida Supreme Court has spoken.

(AP) -- The Supreme Court refused on Monday to step in and keep a severely brain-damaged woman hooked to a feeding tube, all but ending a long-running right-to-die battle pitting her husband against her parents.

It was the second time the Supreme Court dodged the politically charged case from Florida, where Republican Gov. Jeb Bush successfully lobbied the Legislature to pass a law to keep 41-year-old Terri Schiavo on life support.

I'm really kicking myself for not saving a quote I stumbled across last week. Though I can't remember it verbatim, it had to do with the importance of either a lawyer or other professional's job to protect those that have no voice. The actual quote was far more eloquently versed than my feeble presentation, though I trust the message hits home.

It's more than odd that virtually the same legal system in the same country potentially saves the life of a convicted serial killer in one breathe, and in the very next breathe as much as signs the death sentence of a true innocent.

In the closing scene of the movie Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray as gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the good Doctor quipped to his pair of highly carnivorous Doberman Pincers, "It still hasn't gotten weird enough for me."

In the wake of the latest news on the Schiavo and Ross cases, highly carnivorous lawyers frantically swim about in the turbulence, crazed by the taste blood and money. To this journalist, gonzo or otherwise, when it comes to the American judicial system, it has gotten weird enough.

Waiter? Check please!

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Revised - Thursday, September 8, 2005