NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WFSB) Jury deliberations entered a second day Tuesday morning in the multiple murder trial of Steven Hayes for the 2007 invasion of the Petit family home that ended in three deaths.
Hayes and a second suspect are accused of burning down the Petit family home to destroy evidence of their crimes, and the jury seems to be focusing on the arson aspect of the case, if their questions to the judge late Monday are any indication.
Prosecutors say that Hayes, along with Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the Petit home in 2007, beat Dr. 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 allegedly raped and strangled her and set the house on fire.
The jury deliberated for over two hours Monday after being read the charging documents by the judge. They sent a number of questions to the judge including asking for the legal definition of "arson" and whether the act of pouring gasoline can be considered starting a fire, according to CBS affiliate WFSB.
The judge told the jury that by law the answer is "no," a fire only starts when it is actually lit.
In their closing arguments the prosecution said that Hayes had multiple opportunities to stop the violence from escalating to the point of murder and rape but did nothing. They say he is the one who purchased the gasoline with full knowledge of how it would be used; he was the one who poured the gasoline down the stairs, effectively cutting off the only possible escape route for the two young girls tied to their beds upstairs.
A fire investigator testified during the trial that he believed the two Petit children were alive when the fire started and that in fact Hayley was able to escape her bindings only to be trapped by the burning stairs. A melted gasoline container was found under her burned body.
Steven Hayes faces the death penalty if he is convicted on even one of the six capital charges against him, which include multiple murder in the course of a single action, murder of a child under the age of 11, and murder in the course of the commission of a first-degree sexual assault. In all he faces 17 felony charges, including the arson charges.
"You are the sole judges of the facts," Judge Jon Blue told the jury. "No one will hurry you to produce a verdict."
Komisarjevsky faces a separate capital murder trial 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.
If they issue a conviction on the capital charges the same jury will then listen to arguments in the penalty phase to decide whether Hayes will get the death penalty.
ALSO ON CRIMESIDER