Is sexual sadism a mitigating factor in a rape and murder case?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings this afternoon on the nomination of Judge Robert Chatigny to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Chatigny can expect plenty of skepticism about his suitability, given his handling of a case involving Michael Ross, a Connecticut serial killer who raped and murdered at least eight women and girls.
The facts are summarized in this article in the American Spectator. Chatigny found that the sexual sadism of Ross — known as the Roadside Strangler — was a mitigating factor in his case. He went so far as to state that, given his sadism, Ross “never should have been convicted, or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death.”
Ross himself had finally decided to accept his execution after 20 years of appeals. However, his family and former defense counsel brought a series of “next friend” actions claiming that Ross was incompetent to make this decision. Chatigny twice ordered the execution postponed, but his rulings were overturned by the Second Circuit. Chatigny then tried to browbeat Ross’ lawyer into mounting another challenge to the death sentence. He even threatened the law license of that lawyer.
In addition to urging sexual sadism as a mitigating factor, Chatigny argued that Ross could not knowingly have decided to stop appealing given the conditions of the prison where he was being held. Chatigny showed himself to be quite the internationalist, telling Ross’ lawyer that he should enlist “an expert who knows why the courts of Europe will not extradite someone to a place like [the prison in question].”
In the end, Ross was executed and State attorneys in Connecticut filed a complaint with the Second Circuit alleging judicial misconduct. Chatigny avoided sanctions but, absent a satisfactory explanation of his conduct in the Ross case, Republican Senators (and maybe even the odd Democrat) will likely have serious reservations about whether Judge Chatigny should be promoted to an appellate court.

Responses