Connecticut jury delivers guilty verdicts in triple-murder case

October 7, 2010

Earlier this week, a Connecticut Superior Court jury convicted Steven Hayes (shown here) on 16 of 17 criminal counts in connection with a home invasion and the subsequent deaths of a woman and her two daughters, who were 17 and 11 years old.

It took the jury just a few hours to reach the verdicts, capping a four-week trial that recounted a long list of allegations against the 47-year-old Hayes and his accomplice, 30-year-old Joshua Komiserjevsky, who will stand trial next year.

In the pre-dawn hours of a summer morning in 2007, the two men broke into the suburban Connecticut home of Dr. William Petit Jr. and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit. The men beat the sleeping Petit with a baseball bat, tied him up in the basement, and then held the entire family hostage for hours before setting the house on fire with the family inside. Hawke-Petit was strangled to death, and the two girls died from smoke inhalation. Petit managed to escape from the basement and go to a neighbor’s for help.

Hayes was acquitted of the arson charge, but he was convicted of all other charges, which included the rape of Hawke-Petit.

The shocking details of the widely publicized case have sparked a renewed debate about capital punishment in Connecticut and across the country. Six of Hayes’s 16 convictions make him eligible for the death penalty – a fate favored by the family’s lone survivor, Dr. Petit. In July, the public defender’s office filed a motion to preclude the capital penalty hearing under the premise that “Connecticut’s death penalty scheme is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state and federal constitutions.”

All eyes are now on the penalty phase of the trial, when the jury reconvenes on Oct. 18 to determine whether Hayes lives or dies.

» See the criminal complaint on Westlaw (2007 WL 2778595 – sign-on required)

» See the motion to preclude capital penalty hearing (2010 WL 3907125 – sign-on required)