Entries in Penalty Trial (3)


Flirty Juror in Petit Home Invasion Trial Rattles Judge

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, CT) -- The third week of testimony in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted murderer Steven Hayes began with twist. Judge Jon Blue revealed to the courtroom this morning that the sole remaining alternate juror, a female, attempted to pass a note to one of the court marshals Friday that read: "Sunday 5pm. Side Street Grill. Can we?"

The note was apparently intended to elicit a romantic affair. The judge called it a matter of "spectacular" and "poor" judgment and further said it was a "goddamn dumb thing to do," all the more so because several alternate jurors had already been dismissed -- leaving an extremely thin jury pool.

If there were any issues with one of the sitting jurors, Blue said Monday, the entire trial could have been thrown into question.

Hayes was convicted last month on 16 felony counts for his role in the July 2007 Cheshire, CT, home invasion that left Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, dead.

The embarrassed juror was questioned in open court about the note and flushed red, hiding her head in her hands.

"I have embarrassed myself," she said.

Blue eventually ruled that she should not be dismissed as an alternate juror, because the situation "did not affect her impartiality" and they needed her on the panel.

Monday, the jury was read a letter from Hayes to his only son, Steven Jr., dated 2005 in which the elder Hayes admitted to being a drug addict and apologized for being a bad father.

"So you see bad drugs and my using cost me everything," wrote. "It is cunning, baffling and powerful."

Hayes ended his letter, "Steven, I love you and hope to one day have the chance to make it up to you."

Though prosecutors have pushed hard for the death penalty, Hayes' defense team has called a string of witnesses over two weeks in an attempt to bolster their claim that Hayes was merely a klutzy burglar who followed the whim of co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky.

Komisarjevsky, 30, is scheduled to stand trial early next year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Prison Safety Examined in Conn. Invasion Sentencing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Attorneys working to spare the life of convicted murderer Steven Hayes turned the heat on the Connecticut prison system Monday, grilling former corrections officials on inmate safety.

Retired corrections commissioner Theresa Lantz, first on the stand Monday morning for the defense, invoked notorious murderer Jeffrey Dahmer and de-frocked Boston pedophile priest John Geoghan as high-profile inmates who were brutally murdered while serving their sentences.

"It's a horrific crime that was committed," Lantz said when asked if she had any concerns for Hayes' safety in the wake of the July 2007 home invasion that left Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, dead. "When you have offenders with that type of a're very concerned about their safety."

Monday kicked off the second week of testimony in the sentencing phase of Hayes' trial. The prosecution, which is pushing for the death penalty, rested its case the first morning after calling a clerk to read a list of Hayes' criminal convictions.

Closing arguments are expected to be held on Friday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Petit Murders: Steven Hayes' Lawyer Tries to Spare His Life

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Defense attorneys trying to spare convicted murderer Steven Hayes the death penalty for his role in the murders of a Connecticut mother and her two daughters plan to employ character witnesses and his history of drug abuse as part of their strategy.

"At this point, you must have an open mind as a question of punishment," public defender Patrick Culligan told the jury Monday, the first day of the sentencing trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.

"You will learn that he has a long criminal history of being a burglar and a thief and a person who has for a long period of time in his life [had] a serious drug abuse addiction," he continued.  "You will also learn he could be a good worker ... he could be a likable person."

Whether or not being a "likable person" is enough to spare Hayes' life is unknown for the jury who sat through weeks of gruesome evidence before finding Hayes, 47, guilty on 16 of 17 felony counts for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Hawke-Petit and Michaela were also raped before being killed.

The defense's first witness, former investigator D'Arcy Lovetere, said she got to know Hayes during her time with the public defender's office in his hometown and described him as a "gentleman" and "motivated to work," who was always remorseful for his crimes.

"He wasn't the best criminal in the world for sure," Lovetere testified.  "His addiction overtook him, but he just wasn't all that good as a criminal, I guess.  He was a klutz."

"He was definitely a follower," she said.

Evidence in the sentencing phase, the bulk of it from the defense, is scheduled to be heard early this week and into next week, with closing statements expected by Oct. 29.

Hayes, dressed in a white collared shirt with black stripes, reacted little during the morning's events, much as he did during his trial.

Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of his family's massacre, was in the audience.  Petit announced earlier this month that he will not give a victim impact statement during the penalty phase.

In a statement, Petit cited what he considers to be a lack of clarity in Connecticut law regarding the reading of victim impact statements, saying it is not well-defined whether such a statement should be read by the victim himself or by the prosecutor and whether or not such a statement should be presented prior to or after the sentencing.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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