Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on whether to promote District Judge Robert Chatigny to a life-tenured seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Any citizen who expects judges to bring the most heinous criminals to justice should be seriously concerned about this nomination.

In an infamous 2005 case, Chatigny, a judge on the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, fought tooth and nail to remove a serial rapist and murderer from death row. Chatigny argued that the murderer, known as the Roadside Strangler, “never should have been convicted” and certainly should not have received the death penalty. Why? Because he was “sexually sadistic.” Yes, according to this judge, the fact that the murderer was driven by excitement at the suffering of his victims somehow makes him less culpable for the lives he took.

Rush Limbaugh

Here’s a quick history of the case. Michael Ross confessed to the rape and murder of eight young women. A jury determined that his actions warranted the death sentence—the first handed down in Connecticut in over 40 years. After 20 years of failed appeals by his attorneys, Ross decided to accept the sentence. Days before the scheduled execution, the public defender’s office requested a stay of the execution—against Ross’s wishes—arguing that “death row syndrome” had caused Ross to fall into suicidal despair. Chatigny granted the stay based on this strained argument. The U.S. Supreme Court did not buy Chatigny’s foray into bench-chair psychology and ultimately vacated the stay.

While the stay was pending before the Supreme Court, Chatigny granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of Ross’s father, arguing that the execution would “extinguish [the father’s] constitutionally protected bond with his son in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in that the State will have assisted his son in committing suicide, which is a crime in itself.”

The idea that the Fourteenth Amendment somehow protects father-son bonding is novel to say the least. It is hard to say which is more preposterous: this or the notion that the state is engaging in “assisted suicide” by executing a brutal murderer who refuses to fight his death sentence. Ross was not sentenced to death because he wanted it, but because he deserved it. The Second Circuit and the Supreme Court vacated the temporary restraining order.


Deborah O'Malley

Deborah O’Malley is a Research Associate in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Follow Heritage's continuing coverage of the Elena Kagan nomination.