Death Penalty for Conn. Home Invasion Killer?

In Connecticut, a guilty verdict has come in the first of two trials in what's been described as one of the most horrific crimes in recent history.

CBS News National Correspondent Jeff Glor reported from New Haven, Conn., that even though Steven Hayes has been found guilty of all capital charges related to his role in the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, it's still up to the jury to decide if will receive the death penalty or not.

Pictures: Petit Family Murders

Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of a horrific home invasion, said outside the courthouse Tuesday, "There is some relief, but my family is still gone."

As Petit closed the door on one phase of this case, he prepared himself for what comes next, Glor said. In 12 days, jurors will begin deciding if Hayes will face the death penalty, and Petit will sit through more grueling testimony about the killings of his wife and two daughters. He was asked how he could push on when both defendants agreed to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, sparing any trials.

Petit answered, "You probably would do the same thing if your family was destroyed by evil."

Beth Karas, former prosecutor and correspondent for CNN's "In Session" told CBS News, "It's mainly going to be the defense putting on evidence of why he should live and there is no limit on what they can put on. The question for the jury will be does what the defense put on outweigh the heinousness of these acts."

The guilt phase of Hayes' trial took nine days, though jurors took only four and a half hours deliberating to find him guilty on 16 counts. Petit was asked if Hayes still matters to him.

Petit said, "What matters to me most is my family and my memories of my family. I don't know over the last couple of weeks, I just kept trying to tell myself that good will overcome evil."

Glor reported Hayes, then 44, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, broke into the Petit home in suburban Connecticut in July 2007 and beat William Petit with a baseball bat, forcing Jennifer Hawke-Petit to withdraw $15,000 from a bank before strangling and raping her back at home.

The couple's daughter, 11-year old Michaela Petit was also raped. All three murder victims, including 17-year-old Hayley Petit, were doused with gasoline before the house was set on fire.

Karas said, "To pour gasoline on them. To light the house on fire. To strangle and rape the mother who begged for her life. ... It's evil incarnate, is all you can say."



Glor added the penalty phase for Hayes begins in two weeks and is expected to last about a week. As for the trial for his co-defendant, Komisarjevsky, that won't begin until next year.

CBS News Legal Analyst Jack Ford, who has defended five death penalty cases, said the penalty phase of the case is "a little different" than most cases.

He explained, "What you get in these cases are two separate trials under the umbrella of one. We know now the first trial focuses on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The jury has said guilty to a number of counts, including ones that make him eligible for the death penalty. What they they're going to do now, is an entirely separate second trial. There will be opening statements by the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution will present evidence here. The defense can, if they want to -- you've got to assume there will some evidence here from the defense -- then closing arguments again by both sides, the judge gives instructions to the jury, and ultimately the jury deliberates, and comes back with a verdict, a second separate trial within the whole case."

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said it's the same judge and the same jury in the second trial.

But will the horrific evidence and testimony be reiterated in this trial?

Ford said, "That's always a tough question as the prosecutor. What are you going to present here? I've seen cases where the prosecution has simply stood up and said to the jury, 'You've heard everything already. There's nothing more he can tell you about, so rely on that information.' Sometimes they will say, 'Rely on what you've heard so far, but we also want to provide you with victim impact statements.' Let the father talk about them to what this has done to him and the family members. Not every murder conviction results in a death penalty. There has to be what they call murder plus. Here among other things they are talking about heinous and cruel and vicious manner in which these murders took place. The prosecution may bring more witnesses in. I've got to believe you're going to hear something from the family members."

Rodriguez remarked, "I'm sure. They could have settled this long ago and agreed to the settlement where the defendant went to prison for life but wanted to go for the death penalty, so I'm sure they'll want to speak up."

What about the defense -- will Hayes be on the stand?

Ford said, "That's a tough question. In the cases I tried, I did put the defendant on the stand to essentially say what happened, why I'm so terribly sorry and basically asking to save their lives. You will probably get some testimony about who he is, what his background is, if he had a troubled past. I would suspect, he didn't of it beforehand, I would suspect -- a lot of times lawyers will keep the defendant off the stand even here -- if their defense has been, I didn't do this, you have the wrong person here. They didn't really have that defense. He admitted to what he did here. I would suspect you may well hear him on the stand saying something to these jurors."
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