Judge hears challenge to Conn. death sentence

(AP) - Attorneys for a man condemned to die for a deadly home invasion tried to convince a judge Wednesday that the jury was unduly

NEW HAVEN - (AP) - Attorneys for a man condemned to die for a deadly home invasion tried to convince a judge Wednesday that the jury was unduly swayed by emotion, but the judge said the jurors' reactions were natural given the crime's "unimaginable horror."

Judge Jon Blue heard arguments, but did not immediately rule, on a defense motion challenging the death verdict two weeks ago for Steven Hayes, who was convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters in the 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

Hayes was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling the mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, after forcing her to withdraw money from a bank. Investigators say Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky tied the girls to their beds and poured gasoline on or around them before setting the house on fire, leaving them to die of smoke inhalation.

The girls' father and Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up, but managed to escape to a neighbor's house to get assistance.

Tom Ullmann, Hayes' attorney, cited comments by a juror of having persistent nightmares during the trial, during which they heard gruesome testimony and saw photos of the victims, charred beds, rope, ripped clothing and ransacked rooms.

Blue promised a ruling on the motion, which seeks a new trial or a life sentence, before Hayes' scheduled sentencing on Dec. 2. Blue did reject a defense motion challenging Hayes' assault conviction.

Some jurors met with Petit and his relatives after the verdict and some also appeared on television wearing pins for a family foundation in memory of the victims, Ullmann said.

The attorney called the meeting "somewhat unseemly," but Blue said he was not concerned. The judge repeatedly pressed Ullmann to cite court rulings to bolster his arguments, saying courts do not delve into the mental processes and reasoning of jurors.

Komisarjevsky faces trial next year.

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Trending Video

Weather Kids: Mathewson Elementary School 1 Weather Kids: Mathewson Elementary School
Thousands of people are rallying together in cities 2 Women march in solidarity in Stamford
A disabled Bridgeport man is thanking News 12 3 Disabled Bridgeport man becomes 1st-time homeowner
A Fairfield woman is seeking the public's help 4 Fairfield seeks to return home video to owner
Traffic is back to normal in Bridgeport after 5 Tractor-trailer catches fire in Bridgeport

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Features

Focus on Connecticut Focus on Connecticut

Features local, state and federal officials discussing the issues around southwestern Connecticut.

Celebrates African-American culture in southwestern Connecticut. Our Lives

Celebrates African-American culture in southwestern Connecticut.

Each week News 12 Connecticut introduces you to Hometown Hero

News 12 highlights people who give to the community.

We spotlight a local team each week. Connecticut Team of the Week

Each week News 12 Connecticut highlights a team from a local school.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE