Closing arguments to be made in trial of man charged in Conn. home invasion killingsBy AP
Friday, October 1, 2010
Final arguments set for Conn. home invasion trial
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A prosecutor and defense attorney were set to make closing arguments Friday in the trial of a man charged in the 2007 home invasion killings of a Connecticut woman and her two daughters.
Steven Hayes is on trial in New Haven Superior Court on capital felony, murder and sexual assault charges in the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley. Jury deliberations were expected to begin next week.
Authorities testified that Hayes of Winsted, strangled Hawke-Petit, and her daughters died of smoke inhalation after Hayes and another defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, set fire to the family’s home in Cheshire. Komisarjevsky, 30, of Cheshire, awaits trial.
Both defendants face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. If the jury in Hayes’ trial finds him guilty, the same jury will weigh whether he should receive the death penalty in a separate penalty phase.
Friday’s closing arguments come after eight days of often gruesome testimony and graphic photos that led some jurors to weep. The girls were tied to their beds with pillow cases over their heads and gasoline poured on or around them before the house was set on fire, according to testimony.
A state police detective said Hayes, still reeking of gasoline, gave an emotionless confession in which he told authorities how he sexually assaulted the mother after Komisarjevsky told him he had to “square things up” because the other man already had sexually assaulted one of the girls.
A prison officer, Jeremiah Krob, said he overheard Hayes tell another inmate that he killed Hawke-Petit after Komisarjevsky told him he had to do it.
The 47-year-old Hayes said Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela, took cell phone pictures of her that he tried to e-mail to friends and doused her in gasoline, Krob testified. Krob said Hayes admitted pouring gas on the stairs but told the other inmate he didn’t believe he could be charged with arson because he didn’t light it.
Hayes’ attorneys conceded much of the case on the first day of the trial and called only two witnesses. Their cross-examinations and Hayes’ accounts often focused on Komisarjevsky’s role.
The girls’ father, Dr. William Petit, told the jury he awoke on a couch the morning of the attacks and found two people standing near him, one holding a gun. He said he was beaten with a baseball bat, his wrists and ankles bound, and was tied to a post in his basement. He managed to free his hands, get up the stairs and crawl and roll to a neighbor’s house.