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    1. #1
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      Oct 2010

      Steven Hayes - Connecticut Death Row

      July 23, 2009

      Attorneys for two men charged in a deadly 2007 home invasion in Cheshire said Tuesday that their clients have repeatedly offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences in prison in hopes of escaping the death penalty.

      The attorneys, speaking at a hearing in New Haven Superior Court, said prosecutors have rejected the offer every time and want the death penalty for suspects Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who have pleaded not guilty to capital felony, murder and other charges.

      Hayes and Komisarjevsky are accused of breaking into a doctor’s home in an upscale Connecticut suburb, beating him and forcing his wife to withdraw thousands of dollars from a nearby bank before they strangled her.

      Their daughters died of smoke inhalation from a fire police say the intruders set as they fled.

      Both suspects were on parole after serving prison time for burglary. Their trial is scheduled for January.

      “We have offered that (guilty plea) in every single status conference, including today, and it’s been rejected every single time, so don’t blame us,” said Hayes’ attorney, Thomas Ullmann. “We tried to end this matter.”

      Defense attorneys said a trial, and appeals if their clients are convicted and sent to Connecticut’s death row, would cost millions and expose jurors to post-traumatic stress syndrome after hearing details of the July 23, 2007 crimes.

      “It’s only the state’s insistence that death be the ultimate punishment to cause this case to last as long as it has,” said Komisarjevsky’s attorney, Jeremiah Donovan.

      New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington declined to comment in court.

      The judge has previously barred both sides from talking publicly about the case outside of court.

      Hayes and Komisarjevsky are accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, who practices in Plainville, was beaten but survived.

      Gun permit applications in Cheshire, about 14 miles north of New Haven, jumped substantially after the Petits were attacked.

      The shocking nature of the crimes prompted calls for reform of the state parole system and harsher penalties for people convicted of home invasion. The General Assembly passed new laws that lengthen prison sentences for repeat offenders and felons convicted of home invasion.

      William Petit planned to speak in court, but did not after defense attorneys objected. Outside of court, Petit said the defendants should plead guilty and proceed to the penalty phase.

      The prosecution has been ready with its case since March of 2008, Petit said, but the defense said it needed more time. He also noted the horrors of the crimes against his family, objected to efforts by a defense attorney to contact him and said victims get little financial assistance while the state spends millions on defense costs.

      “I would suggest our system is out of kilter and victim’s rights are totally abused,” Petit said


    2. #2
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      Oct 2010
      Conn. man whose family was killed in home invasion faces long battle in death penalty case

      The Associated Press

      NEW HAVEN, Conn. - At 52, Dr. William Petit faces years — perhaps decades — of emotionally draining court hearings before the two men charged with murdering his family in a 2007 home invasion may be convicted and executed.

      He'll have to listen repeatedly to the horrific details of the crimes against his wife, who was strangled, and two daughters, who were tied to their beds. All three died of smoke inhalation from a fire police say the intruders set as they fled Petit's house after holding the family hostage for hours. Petit, a prominent physician who was beaten during the ordeal, will sit feet away from the defendants as they assert their rights and file appeal after appeal.

      Attorneys for defendants Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky said this week in court that their offer to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison could have ended it all. But defense attorneys said prosecutors refused because they want to win death sentences.

      A trial could begin in January.

      Petit countered that an attorney for Hayes was trying to shift blame to him and prosecutors for not accepting a plea bargain, "when it was his client who helped kill three innocent people."

      As lawmakers weigh the future of the death penalty in some states, officials are giving greater weight to the effect of prolonged death penalty cases on victims' families. Commissions in New Jersey and Maryland in recent years found that death penalty cases are more harmful to the families of victims than cases that end with life sentences.

      "The commission finds that regardless of whether or not a survivor supports an execution, years of court dates, reversals, appeals and exposure to the killer is harmful to the family members of murder victims," the Maryland commission wrote in its report last year.

      New Jersey repealed its death penalty in 2007, while Maryland has had a moratorium since 2006.

      Across the country, relatives of murder victims say the plodding pace of a death penalty case in court is difficult.

      Phyllis Bricker of Baltimore has sat through 26 years of court hearings since her parents were murdered in 1983. Their killer, John Booth-El, remains on death row.

      "It's hard on the family, very hard," Bricker said. "Your life is on hold because you never know when another trial is coming up, another appeal is coming up."

      One time, Bricker said, the defendant turned to her family and said, "See you next year."

      Despite the protracted battle, Bricker said she does not favor a sentence of life without parole. She said that option did not exist at the time of the crime and she's skeptical prisoners would be kept behind bars for life.

      The Rev. Cathy Harrington's daughter, Leslie Ann Mazzara, was killed in 2004 in California. A 2007 plea agreement was reached in which her convicted killer, Eric Copple, got life in prison.

      "I could see us exhaling," Harrington said of her family at the sentencing. "I hadn't realized how tense we were. I didn't have any room to really grieve properly. I was so busy trying to get through this, never knowing when the phone rang who it was going to be."

      Harrington has written an essay about her daughter for a book and is studying for a doctorate focusing on restorative justice. Her sons are building a cottage for abused children in Leslie's memory.

      "I'm so busy. I'm tired, but I feel like I can maybe start to live my life now," Harrington said.

      She said Petit has the right to favor the death penalty in his case.

      Hayes and Komisarjevsky, who were on parole after serving prison time for burglary, are accused of breaking into Petit's home, beating him and forcing his wife to withdraw thousands of dollars from a bank before they strangled her. They've pleaded not guilty to capital felony murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and arson.

      Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in June vetoed a bill to abolish the death penalty, saying the state cannot tolerate people who commit particularly heinous murders.

      Petit has taken on an active role, participating in fundraisers in memory of his family that benefit the causes they championed and lobbying lawmakers not to repeal the death penalty.

      He thanked Rell for her veto and called capital punishment "what is required to maintain the fabric of our society."

      A Quinnipiac poll released Nov. 7, 2007, less than four months after the killings found that 73 percent of Connecticut voters believed the two suspects in the Cheshire murders should be executed, while 23 percent said they shouldn't.

      Gun permit applications in Cheshire, about 14 miles north of New Haven, jumped substantially after the Petits were attacked.

      The General Assembly passed new laws that lengthen sentences for repeat offenders, revamp the parole system and create a new crime of home invasion.

      Connecticut has 10 men on death row, including a few sentenced 20 years ago. Besides appeals, a lawsuit alleging racial disparity in death sentences is delaying executions.

      If Hayes and Komisarjevsky are convicted and sentenced to die, their appeals could easily continue for decades. In 2005, Connecticut serial killer Michael Ross was the first person executed in New England in 45 years — even after waiving his appeals, Ross was behind bars for more than 20 years before he was put to death.

      "It was a load off of our shoulders," said Edwin Shelly, whose daughter was Ross' seventh victim. "The hate is gone because there is no one to hate."

      Raymond Roode, whose daughter also was killed by Ross, said he is glad Ross was executed.

      "The finality of the death penalty is the thing that appeals to me," Roode said. "It doesn't matter how long it takes."


    3. #3
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      July 26, 2009

      After Petit Slayings, It Takes Longer To Get Out On Parole

      Violent offenders are spending more time in prison before earning parole, following changes made in the two years since the brutal slaying of three members of a Cheshire family exposed inadequacies in the state's prisoner-release system.

      "If somebody were to look at our process today and compare it to what it was prior to Cheshire, they'd see a remarkable change," said Robert Farr, the chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. "Because of that awful case there has been huge changes to the system."

      Now board members are flooded with paperwork, and case files are two or three times the size they were in the past, according to Farr.


    4. #4
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      September 9, 2009

      Defendant: CT home invasion trial may need a move

      The Associated Press

      NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- One of two men charged in a deadly home invasion in Connecticut says the trial may need to be moved because the sole survivor of the attack has called him an "animal" and is campaigning for his execution.

      Court papers filed by an attorney for Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sahr-JEV'-skee) says Dr. William Petit has repeatedly made inflammatory remarks about his client. He says he is investigating a change of venue request, based on Petit's comments and pretrial publicity.

      Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted in the 2007 killings of Petit's wife and their two daughters. Petit was beaten during the ordeal, but survived.

      Prosecutors declined to comment. Experts say change of venues are rarely granted.


    5. #5
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      Suspects Head to Court in Conn. Home Invasion Case

      NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Two men charged with a deadly home invasion in Cheshire two years ago will be in court again as the case heads to trial.

      Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky are scheduled in New Haven Superior Court on Wednesday.

      Both men have pleaded not guilty to capital felony murder and other crimes in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley. They face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

      Jury selection for Hayes is scheduled to start Jan. 19.

      Hayes and Komisarjevsky are accused of breaking into the Petit home, beating William Petit and forcing his wife to withdraw thousands of dollars from a nearby bank before they strangled her.


    6. #6
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      More than two years later, the details still have the power to horrify.

      In the middle of the night, two parolees break into a tidy clapboard house in the central Connecticut town of Cheshire. They club the father, a doctor, and tie him up.

      One of them rapes and strangles the mother, the authorities say. The other molests one of the daughters, 11-year-old Michaela. The father breaks free and shouts for help. But the intruders have set a fire: The girls, Michaela and Hayley, 17, tied to their beds, die of smoke inhalation.

      The triple murder on Sorghum Mill Drive — widely compared to the Kansas killings inTruman Capote's “In Cold Blood” — has transfixed the state ever since. The suspects, both habitual criminals, were arrested a block from the house. The crime prompted a searching review of the state legal system that had freed them.

      Now, jury selection in the first of their capital murder trials is set to begin Tuesday, though both defendants tried and failed to avoid trial by offering to plead guilty in exchange for sentences of life in prison.

      But in Connecticut, this is more than a murder case. It is a raw test, not only of whether these men deserve execution, but also of public and political sentiment on capital punishment itself. It is a case so well known in the state, fraught with so much emotion, and with so much potential to shape the thinking about capital punishment here, that the selection of 12 jurors and eight alternates could take six months.

      All of the things that are about to play out in the Cheshire case will have a tremendous effect on the death-penalty debate in this state,” said State Representative Michael P. Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven.

      Mr. Lawlor helped lead a failed effort to repeal capital punishment in the state last year. It was an effort that showed, even before the first juror could be selected, the power of the Cheshire murders to roil debate.

      Both houses of the General Assembly voted last spring to end capital punishment in future cases. But first, legislators heard a riveting plea from the father who survived that unimaginable night in July 2007, Dr.William A. Petit Jr.

      “My family got the death penalty,” he testified in March, “and you want to give murderers life. That is not justice.”

      The governor, M. Jodi Rell, a Republican who is stepping down, vetoed the bill to repeal. She cited just one case: the Cheshire killings.

      In many ways, the struggle over the Connecticut death penalty mirrors the conversation that has played out nationally in recent years, with three states abandoning capital punishment: New York, New Jersey and New Mexico. But in Connecticut, for some, the death penalty has been seen through the lens of just one crime.

      The fall election for legislators and the governor is quite likely to come just as the trial spews out gruesome new details that have been kept sealed. With a potentially crowded field of candidates for the State House, not all of whom have yet weighed in on the death penalty, and legislators who are now on record on capital punishment seeking re-election, voters could well have the Cheshire case on their minds as they head to the polls.

      The defendants will be tried separately. Steven J. Hayes, who is to be tried first, with testimony scheduled to begin in September, was the heavyset drug addict and smash-and-grab thief who was 44 at the time of the killings. Joshua Komisarjevsky was the wiry 26-year-old burglar, a rape victim himself, whom a judge had called a “calculated, cold-blooded predator.” Each has blamed the other.

      The trial is to offer talking points for partisans on both sides of the capital punishment issue.

      For death-penalty opponents, the case is a model of what they see as the waste of capital cases in time, money and misery. It will be slow, expensive and grisly. If the jury votes for death, any execution would be years away, if it is ever carried out.

      Even though the defendants have offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, the prosecutors are pushing ahead with their capital cases. The details of the crime will spill out in court, more than three years after the killings occurred.

      Ben Jones, the executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said capital cases by their nature delay justice and subject victims to painful trials.

      “Here we are two years after the murders,” he said, “and that’s in large part because they are seeking the death penalty.”

      But for proponents, it would be unthinkable to treat these acts like other crimes.

      “The Petit case is the quintessential case of why people like me believe there should be a death penalty,” said Representative Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., the Republican minority leader in the House, who worked against repeal.

      Dr. Petit has become a visible death-penalty supporter, even beyond his testimony in the legislature. In an interview last week, he said that when people commit crimes like those in Cheshire, “they no longer have a right to exist in this society.”

      He said he knew the trial would be an ordeal. But, he said, “I need to stand up for what is just in society, and I need to stand up for my family personally.”

      The court here will put on display the elaborate machinery of capital cases. The questioning of Mr. Hayes’s potential jurors is sure to focus on the saturation coverage of the Cheshire case across the state and beyond. People magazine, for example, headlined its article, “Horror in the Night.”

      The lead public defender, Thomas J. Ullmann, and the state’s attorney here, Michael Dearington, will spend months maneuvering over potential jurors’ views. Because of the intense press coverage, judges long ago barred participants from public statements, so neither lawyer would discuss strategy.

      But other death-penalty lawyers said the jury selection would be a legal dance that is routine in death-penalty cases. Mr. Ullmann has already argued that the publicity has made it impossible for Mr. Hayes to get a fair trial now, suggesting that a death sentence would be unjust in an atmosphere of intense emotions.

      The defense will draw out potential jurors’ attitudes to try to prove the depth of bias against Mr. Hayes, now a gaunt inmate who is on suicide watch. In response, Mr. Dearington will cajole panel members to say that no matter what incendiary facts they know of Mr. Hayes’s deeds, they can put aside their feelings and vote only on the evidence.

      It is a familiar routine, said Stephen B. Bright, a death-penalty defense lawyer who teaches about capital punishment at Yale Law School. “Everyone knows it will be very difficult for jurors to put that out of their minds,” Mr. Bright said, “but for the system to work we pretend that they can.”

    7. #7
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      Oct 2010
      January 31, 2010

      Hayes Apparently Took Drug Overdose; Jury Selection Delayed

      Jury selection scheduled Monday in the trial of Steven Hayes has been delayed after he was found unconscious in his prison cell this morning.

      Hayes was taken to the UConn Health Center in Farmington after prison guards found him around 6:40 a.m. Sunday in his cell at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institute in Suffield. It is not clear what his condition is and hospital officials are not releasing any details.

      Sources familiar with the case said Hayes apparently had overdosed on medication that he receives daily. Sources said he had faked taking his medicine for at least a few days in an apparent suicide attempt, similar to what former death row inmate Michael Ross did several years ago.

      Jury selection has been postponed for at least Monday and will likely be delayed for longer than that.

      Hayes' trial is expected to start in September. Attorneys have already picked four jurors. Hayes is facing the death penalty if he is convicted.

      Hayes has lost more than 80 pounds since entering prison, according to sources familiar with his situation. The gaunt figure appearing in New Haven court looks nothing like the photo of him released after the killings.

      Department of Correction sources said that Sunday was not the first time Hayes has tried to overdose on drugs. Sources said he tried a similar attempt last year and was eventually transferred to Garner Correctional Institute in Newtown, which is the correction department's only prison with psychiatric facilities.

      Hayes was on a 24-hour, seven day a week suicide watch after he was arrested, but department officials drew criticism for having an officer sit outside his cell around the clock.

      Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky have been kept isolated from other prisoners, but while Komisarjevsky has had several visitors, including a writer who published a book detailing Komisarjevsky's version of what happened inside the Petit home, Hayes has been virtually alone except for visits from his attorneys.

      Komisarjevsky in the book and in a detailed police statement has blamed Hayes for the killings of the Petit women, particularly Jennifer Petit. Sources said Komisarjevsky told police he was upstairs in Michaela's room when he heard a struggle downstairs. Komisarjevsky said when he looked downstairs he saw Hayes raping and strangling Jennifer Petit.

      Komisarjevsky said Hayes then turned to him and said there could be no witnesses and then started spreading gasoline through the house. It is not clear who lit the blaze as the two men ran out of the home.

      They were arrested trying to escape. The two girls died of smoke inhalation.


    8. #8
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      Oct 2010
      February 2, 2010

      Hayes out of coma and back at prison

      Steven J. Hayes, who was hospitalized after being found unconscious in his prison cell Sunday morning, was returned to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield this morning, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Correction.

      DOC spokesman Brian Garnett confirmed Hayes was brought back to the prison but declined to provide any other information


    9. #9
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      Oct 2010
      February 18, 2010

      Judge Concerned About Delays In Hayes' Murder Case

      Calling the circumstances that are stalling jury selection in the trial of Steven Hayes an "extremely challenging situation," a Superior Court judge has ordered lawyers to return to court Tuesday, more than three weeks after the case came to a halt.

      Hayes' hospitalization Jan. 31 following a drug overdose in prison prompted Judge Jon C. Blue, on Feb. 1, to postpone jury selection. Hayes faces the death penalty if he is convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, during a break-in and robbery at their Cheshire home on July 23, 2007.

      Blue extended the postponement when one of Hayes' attorneys, Thomas J. Ullmann, said during a Feb. 8 court hearing that the conditions of Hayes' suicide watch in the infirmary at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield were "inhumane" and "further exacerbating [Hayes'] suicidal condition."

      Ullmann said jury selection — which began Jan. 19 — could not proceed as long as Hayes was jailed under those circumstances. Defendants have a right to appear at jury selection and to confer with their lawyers about who gets picked.

      At the time, Blue agreed not to proceed as long as Hayes' status remained the same. . He ordered an update for Tuesday but a paperwork mix-up forced Blue to postpone the hearing to Wednesday. That is when Blue learned about the latest snag: The prison's chief psychiatrist is on vacation this week and unable to examine Hayes until next week.

      Blue said he had to weigh two factors: making sure the trial process continues, and ensuring that it continues "in a manner that is consistent with basic judicial norms."

      Blue said he heard enough from Ullmann to convince him to delay jury selection until next week, when, he said, he hoped to learn more about Hayes' confinement. Hayes, who appeared in court Wednesday, has lost a considerable amount of weight since his arrest. His ill-fitting prison jumpsuit hangs off him.

      If Hayes' confinement conditions do not change, Blue left open the possibility of holding an evidentiary hearing next month "into actual facts" of Hayes' confinement. The hearing could include sworn testimony from state Department of Correction officials.

      "We're trying to deal with a very challenging situation," Blue said.

      Outside the courtroom, Hawke-Petit's husband and the girls' father, Dr. William Petit Jr., who was badly beaten during July 2007 attack but survived, said he thought other states' judicial systems were "more efficient" and expressed frustration with the postponements.

      "It would be nice to get an independent assessment of what is really happening," he said.

      Ullmann has said Hayes was being kept in isolation in a room where the lights stay on 24 hours a day, preventing him from sleeping. Ullmann called a safety smock in which Hayes is restrained "one step short of a straitjacket."

      Testimony in Hayes' trial is scheduled to start Sept. 13. His co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 29, of Cheshire, also faces the death penalty if convicted in a trial that will follow Hayes.'


    10. #10
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      Oct 2010
      February 24, 2010

      Evidentiary hearing set in triple homicide

      An evidentiary hearing on the physical conditions of Steven J. Hayes’ prison confinement has been scheduled for March 2, a move that Dr. William Petit Jr., lone survivor of the Cheshire triple homicide, termed another delay tactic by Hayes’ attorneys.

      Jury selection for Hayes’ trial on capital murder and other counts has been delayed since Jan. 31, when he was found unconscious in his cell at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. One of Hayes’ attorneys, New Haven Chief Public Defender Thomas Ullmann, said Hayes has been suicidal and had overdosed on prescription drugs.

      After two days in a hospital, Hayes was placed in a prison infirmary isolation unit. Ullmann has called Hayes’ confinement “inhumane” because he is being denied anti-psychotic medication and bright lights are kept on 24 hours per day.

      During a brief court session Tuesday, Ullmann said the only change in Hayes’ situation is “They’ve now given him pajamas.” Ullmann said Hayes has to eat with his hands because guards won’t give him utensils.

      Hayes was in the courtroom Tuesday, emotionless as usual.

      Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue said since Hayes’ confinement conditions apparently have not changed, “The next judicial step must be to have some sort of evidentiary hearing.”

      Petit told reporters in a courtroom corridor, “I respectfully disagree with the judge that everybody’s doing their best to push ahead as quickly as possible. This is a ploy by the defense to delay, delay, delay.”

      Ullmann, citing a court-imposed gag order, declined to comment.

      Petit noted the deaths of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and his daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, occurred in July 2007 but only four jurors have been chosen.

      Petit said he is “totally frustrated” by the latest delays. “Somehow it’s OK for the defendants to bind us and beat us and rape us and torture us and set the house on fire, but you can’t be held in a cell with the lights on.”

      Petit praised a New Haven Register editorial that criticized DOC officials for allowing author Brian McDonald to interview co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky several times at the prison, in apparent violation of the gag order.

      After those meetings, Petit said, “The DOC photocopied 44 pages of material (Komisarjevsky’s letters), in direct violation of the gag order.” Petit said DOC officials “dutifully” made copies, then mailed them to McDonald.

      Petit said “nothing was done” in terms of recriminations. “Now, all of a sudden,” Petit added, “we’ll play by the books and see if Hayes is in perfect condition.”

      DOC spokesman Brian Garnett has repeatedly refused to answer questions about Komisarjevsky and Hayes, citing the gag order.

      Hayes, 46, is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 13, and Komisarjevsky, 29, next year. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.


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