NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WFSB) Steven Hayes stood in front of the 12 men and women who will decide if he should live or die Thursday as his defense attorney asked them to spare his life.
In a surprising move, defense attorney Tom Ullmann had Hayes join him to stand face to face with the jury and told them to "Look at him. This is a human being."
"You may despise what he did," Ullmann told the jury in his closing argument, according to CBS affiliate WFSB. "But he's not a rabid dog that needs to be put down."
Hayes was convicted Oct. 6 of breaking into the Petit house, beating Hawke-Petit's husband William with a baseball bat, and forcing her to withdraw money from a bank before Hayes strangled and sexually assaulted her. The couple's daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze.
Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor, escaped to a neighbor's house.
Co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky faces a separate capital murder trial next year for his role in the murders in addition to the charge of sexually assaulting Michaela.
Hayes never testified during the trial or the penalty phase but his defense attorneys argued throughout that Hayes was consumed by guilt over what he had done and what he had felt powerless to stop. They told the jury that a life sentence would be "a fate worse than death" for Hayes, WFSB reported.
Prosecutors countered that argument saying that the crime cried out for the death penalty. They said that Hayes and Komisarjevsky, tormented the Petit family for seven hours before they were killed. Prosecutors showed a photo of the victims smiling and another photo of a terrified Hawke-Petit at the bank withdrawing money for the men.
"Mr. Hayes and Mr. Komisarjevsky were on a power trip," said prosecutor Gary Nicholson.
Prosecutors also rejected defense claims that Hayes was just a follower and Komisarjevsky was the mastermind. They said the crime took both men to carry out and cited text messages the men exchanged the night of the crime in which Hayes said he was "chomping at the bit to get started."
Nicholson told the jury that, in all likelihood, Hawke-Petit knew she and her family were going to die and asked the jury to imagine what her final thoughts were.
"In her last moments on this earth as the defendant's hands were choking the life out of her, what was Mrs. Petit thinking about?" Nicholson asked.
"What were the defendants going to do to her daughters if they were doing this to her."
Deliberations began Friday morning and may carry on into the weekend.