Steven Hayes Verdict: Death Penalty in Connecticut Home Invasion Case?

Steven Hayes Verdict: Death Penalty in Connecticut Home Invasion Case?
The Petit Family (Personal Photo)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WFSB) In 12 days the same jury who found paroled burglar Steven Hayes guilty in the 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters will reconvene for the penalty phase of the trial to decide whether Hayes will receive life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

PICTURES: The Petit Family

Five men and seven women found Hayes guilty Tuesday in 16 of the 17 charges against him, including six capital felonies, for the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and 11-year-old Michaela, reports 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, and allegedly set the house on fire.

Dr. Petit, the sole survivor of the gruesome home invasion, stood outside New Haven Superior Court just minutes after the jury reached its verdict.

"We hope they will continue to use the same diligence and clarity of thought as they consider agreements in the penalty phase of the trial," he said.

 "It's a second trial in a sense," said criminal defense attorney John Walkley.

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."

Walkley, who has represented clients in at least six death penalty cases said it's the state's burden to prove an aggravating factor or factors exist, reports WFSB.

According to Walkley, one of the aggravating factors would mean proving "that the nature of the crimes that were committed were heinous, cruel and depraved."

"If they prove that there is the existence of an aggravating factor, the defense then has an opportunity to put on evidence to show that there is some mitigating factor; something that mitigates the punishment that should be imposed in this case," he said.

If the state proves that the aggravating factor outweighs the mitigating factors, then it is likely Hayes will receive the death sentence. It's the jury, not the judge who makes the final decision by their instructions to the judge, who then imposes the sentence, reports WFSB.

CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor reports the penalty phase for Hayes, which begins Oct. 18, is expected to last about a week.

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.

Komisarjevsky also faces the death penalty by lethal injection if convicted.