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Judge denies mistrial in Conn. home invasion case after Petit family supporter approached juror

Conn. Home Invasion: Steven Hayes Sentenced To Death In Cheshire Home Invasion
Haley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William Petit (Personal Photo)

(CBS/AP) NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial Monday after a supporter of the victims' family spoke to jurors in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is charged in the brutal Connecticut home invasion.

Pictures: Petit Family Murders

A juror says a member or supporter of the Petit family commented Friday during the lunch break, saying "thank you for doing what you're doing." The judge then questioned the jurors about what was said and how it affected them.

Two alternate jurors were nearby but said they didn't hear the comment. None said the comment affected his or her ability to serve impartially.

Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue called the comment improper but not catastrophic. He then denied the defense's motion.

Blue made his comments at the start of Day 10 of the trial. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Monday in the trial against Komisarjevsky, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, ages 17 and 11, reports the Hartford Courant.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes broke into the Petit family's home in July 2007, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat and tied him and his family up. Hayes, who is on death row, was convicted last year of strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused with gas and set on fire.

Walter Bansley, Komisarjevsky's attorney, noted he had sought unsuccessfully to have the trial moved out of New Haven. He said the comment was aimed at influencing jurors.

He also explained that the defense has had difficulty getting witnesses to cooperate because of perceived and actual intimidation.

A defense witness had a dead mouse left in his mailbox, Bansley said. He said members of lawyers' families have been threatened as well.

Judge Blue warned the court he would ban anyone from the court if they approach jurors.

Complete coverage of the Petit family murders on Crimesider

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