On May 8, about two dozen death penalty opponents began a five-day walk to protest the Connecticut’s plans to execute a serial killer who admitted murdering and raping eight women in Connecticut and New York in the early 1980s.

Protesters plan to walk for periods each day through May 12, stopping at the state Capitol, churches and for vigils along the way.

The 30-mile journey will eventually lead to the prison where Michael Ross is scheduled for lethal injection Friday in what would be the first execution in New England in 45 years.

“So many people have asked me, ‘Why are you doing this for Michael Ross?” said Robert Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. ‘We’re not doing this for Michael Ross. We’re doing this because it is state-sponsored homicide.’

Though protesters acknowledged there was little hope it would be halted, they hoped to send a message about capital punishment.

Walter Everett, whose 24-year-old son Scott was killed in Bridgeport in 1987, said he never wanted his son’s killer to die, just to serve a long prison sentence.

Everett, a Methodist pastor in Hartford, once testified before a parole board for the man to have an early release after serving time with good behavior. ‘I’m convinced the death penalty is society’s way of admitting defeat,’ he said.

In Vermont, activists are planning to hold a vigil in Burlington on May 18 to

to protest the death penalty trial of Donald Fell, which is getting under way there.

The noontime vigil will be the first of the actions the groups will undertake to voice their opposition to the death penalty, said Josh Rubenstein, the Northeast Regional director of Amnesty International USA.

Rubenstein met on Monday in Montpelier and Burlington with representatives of other organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, the Peace and Justice Center and Pax Christi to outline their strategy for opposing the death penalty component of the Fell trial, which is now in jury selection.

‘The central message is we think the death penalty is barbaric and inappropriate,’ said Allen Gilbert, the executive director of the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ‘We think Vermont has been targeted by the federal Department of Justice because we are an abolitionist state and we don’t have the death penalty.’

Fell is facing the federal death penalty if convicted on charges that he kidnapped 53-year-old Teresca King from the parking lot of a central Vermont supermarket in November 2000 and killed her in New York state. It is the first death penalty trial in Vermont in almost half a century.

For practical purposes the state eliminated the death penalty in 1965, although it technically remained on the books until 1987.

Gilbert said some activists were considering forming a group to oppose the death penalty, an organization that hadn’t been needed before now. Rubenstein has protested against death penalty cases in other states. He said the Vermont effort was just getting organized.

‘We’ll be approaching members of the Legislature. We will talk to leading religious figures and just be in the public square making clear we are opposed to the death penalty in this case and in every case,’ Rubenstein said.