Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Steven Hayes Guilty On 16 Of 17 Counts; Eligible For Death Penalty In Cheshire Home Invasion Case
NEW HAVEN — A jury has found career criminal Steven Hayes guilty of murder and other crimes, including some punishable by death, in the 2007 Cheshire home invasion that led to the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley and Michaela.
The verdicts set the stage for a penalty phase in which jurors will decide whether Hayes lives or dies. That phase will begin Oct. 18.
Hayes was found guilty on 16 of 17 counts, including all six capital felony charges. Each capital felony makes him eligible for the death penalty.
Shortly after the verdict was read, Dr. William Petit Jr. — the lone survivor of the attack — spoke to reporters on the courthouse steps. Keeping his composure as he patiently answered questions, Petit said he believed Hawke-Petit and the girls were praying for him and his family so they would have the strength to endure.
"We did our best to keep our faith in God that justice would be served," Petit said.
The thanked the state of Connecticut for all of the e-mails, letters and donations to the Petit Family Foundation in memory of his family.
He also thanked the jury. "We hope they will continue to use the same diligence in the penalty phase."
When asked how he felt about the verdict, Petit said "there is some relief … my family is still gone. My home is still gone. It doesn't bring them back, but there is some relief."
Asked how he has the strength to keep going, to attend the penalty phase of the trial, Petit looked out at the media and bystanders forming a semi-circle around him, filling Church Street in front of the courthouse, and said: "Most of you out here are good human beings. You'd probably do the same thing for your family if your family was destroyed by evil."
He said "I thought the evidence was fairly overwhelming."
Petit spoke for roughly 7 minutes, and all the while his father stood beside him, gripping his arm in support.
He would not comment on what he thought the outcome of the penalty phase should be.
The verdict was read aloud, count by count, beginning about 12:40 p.m. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on only one count: first-degree arson.
Hayes stared straight ahead, emotionless.
Petit looked down. His sister, Hanna Petit Chapman, shook as the verdict was read. Her husband had his hand on her back.
Before dismissing the jurors, Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue thanked them for their services but added, "as you know, they are not over." Blue said. The same jurors will return for the penalty phase. Blue cautioned them against speaking publicly about the case.
After court was adjourned, the judicial marshals walked over to Hayes and handcuffed him.
After a brief discussion, New Haven Public Defender Thomas J. Ullmann patted Hayes' back and the marshals led him out of the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, the Rev. Richard Hawke said, "On behalf of our daughter Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and for Hayley Elizabeth Petit and Michaela Rose Petit, we say for them that we are pleased with the verdict and we feel as far as the trial has been going, that justice is being served."
Hayley was 17 years old, and Michaela 11, when they died of smoke inhalation in the attack and arson July 23, 2007. Jennifer Hawke-Petit was sexually and strangled, and her body was burned beyond recognition.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued the following statement:
"The murders of the Petit family horrified and disgusted us all, almost beyond the ability of words to convey. Today's verdicts are a measure of justice – but they can never begin to restore the promise lost on that terrible day in July. That grief may ebb over time but it can never be fully expunged.
"I commend Dr. Petit and his extended family for the remarkable strength and dignity they have displayed throughout this agonizing ordeal — which, of course, will continue through the penalty phase, the trial of another suspect and the legal proceedings that are certain to follow. I know that the people of Connecticut will continue to keep the Petit and Hawke families in their thoughts and prayers in the months to come."
The second suspect in the home-invasion killings, Joshua Komisarjevsky, will be tried after Hayes' case is finished.
Here are the counts against Hayes, followed by verdicts returned so far. Each capital felony count is punishable by death, although that would be decided in the penalty phase of the trial.
COUNT 1 Murder (Jennifer Hawke-Petit): Guilty
COUNT 2 Murder (Hayley Petit): Guilty
COUNT 3 Murder (Michaela Petit): Guilty
COUNT 4 Capital Felony (murders of two or more victims): Guilty
COUNT 5 Capital Felony (Michaela Petit's death, murder of child under 16): Guilty
COUNT 6 First-Degree Kidnapping (Dr. Petit): Guilty
COUNT 7 First-Degree Kidnapping (Jennifer Hawke-Petit): Guilty
COUNT 8 First-Degree Kidnapping (Hayley Petit): Guilty
COUNT 9 First-Degree Kidnapping (Michaela Petit): Guilty
COUNT 10 Capital Felony (the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit during the course of a kidnapping): Guilty
COUNT 11 Capital Felony (the murder of Hayley Petit in the course of a kidnapping): Guilty
COUNT 12 Capital Felony (the murder of Michaela Petit in the course of a kidnapping): Guilty
COUNT 13 First-degree sexual assault (Jennifer Hawke-Petit): Guilty
COUNT 14 Capital Felony (murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit during the course of a first-degree sexual assault): Guilty
COUNT 15 Third-degree burglary: Guilty
COUNT 16 First-degree arson: NOT Guilty
COUNT 17 Second-degree assault (Dr. Petit): Guilty