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Gary Younge
Murderer opts for execution

Michael Ross, 45, was convicted of kidnapping and strangling four teenage girls and raping three of them. He has also admitted killing four other women in the early 80s.

In a recent letter he dropped his appeals, fired his public defenders and hired a private lawyer to defend his "right to die". Ross would be the first person to be executed in Connecticut for 45 years. The state's supreme court will decide on January 26 whether the lawyers he fired can present evidence to suggest he is mentally ill.

Faulty evidence and wrongful convictions have made jurors reluctant to use the death penalty but one in nine convicts who are eventually executed volunteer to die. Those who support the death penalty say prisoners are worn down by lengthy appeals, while opponents of capital punishment say a stretch on death row makes prisoners suicidal.

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