Conn. Home Invasion Jury Weighs Death Penalty for Steven Hayes

Haley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William Petit
Conn. Home Invasion Case: Penalty Phase Begins In Steven Hayes Trial
Haley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William Petit (Personal Photo)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WFSB) The same five men and seven women who found Steven Hayes guilty in the gruesome 2007 home invasion deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters begin the penalty phase of the trial Monday, to determine whether Hayes will be sentenced to death.

PICTURES: The Petit Family

PHayes was convicted last month on 16 of the 17 charges against him, including six capital felony charges, three murder counts and two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit.

Judge Jon Blue has divided the penalty phase in two sessions: three days this week and four days next week, according to CBS affiliate WFSB.

Prosecutors said that Hayes, along with Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the Petit home in July, 2007, beat Dr. William Petit and tied him up in the basement. They then tied 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela to their beds and forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to drive to a bank and withdraw a large amount of money before Hayes raped and strangled her. According court documents, the house was then set ablaze.

Dr. Petit, the sole survivor of the ghastly attack, stood outside New Haven Superior Court just minutes after the jury reached its verdict weeks ago saying, "We hope they [the jury] will continue to use the same diligence and clarity of thought as they consider agreements in the penalty phase of the trial."

According to CNN, Dr. Petit said that he "regretfully decided" not to testify during the sentencing phase because the state's law on victim impact statements could potentially lead to an appeal of the convict's sentence.

"For Connecticut, there's never been anything quite like this. Hayes qualifies for the death penalty in five or six different ways, a victim under the age of 16, multiple victims, death during a sexual assault, death during a burglary," said defense attorney Gerald Klein, who said he's been following the trial.

The penalty phase is essentially a second trial according to defense attorney John Walkley, who has represented clients in at least six death penalty cases. Walkley noted that the jury may have a difficult time weighing the arguments "because they always have in the back of their minds just how terrible this crime was."

The defense plans on putting a psychiatrist on the stand to talk about Hayes' mental state around the time of the crime, reports WFSB.

Komisarjevsky faces a separate capital murder trial, which is expected to begin next year, for his role in the murders in addition to the charge of sexually assaulting Michaela. Hayes' attorney claims that Komisarjevsky escalated the violence and was the mastermind of the invasion.