No verdict yet on sentence in Conn. home invasionJurors deciding punishment for a man convicted in a deadly home invasion suggested Friday on their first day of deliberations that they were divided over whether special circumstances existed that could automatically spare him the death penalty.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Jurors deciding punishment for a man convicted in a deadly home invasion suggested Friday on their first day of deliberations that they were divided over whether special circumstances existed that could automatically spare him the death penalty.
The New Haven jury weighing the fate of Steven Hayes sent two notes to Judge Jon Blue before adjourning without a verdict. They return Saturday.
The jury needs to unanimously agree if certain mitigating factors specified in the law apply against Hayes, who was convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters in the 2007 home invasion in Cheshire. Among the issues, Hayes’ attorneys say he should get life in prison because his mental capacity was significantly impaired during the crime.
Jurors must be unanimous either way, that the so-called statutory mitigating factors exist or they do not. If the jury does not find unanimity, it could lead to a mistrial on the sentencing part of the trial and a new penalty phase to determine Hayes’ sentence.
The first note cited a hypothetical example that a majority of jurors agreed there were such special mitigating factors. But the later note cited different vote tallies, with seven jurors saying Hayes’ mental capacity was not impaired.
Blue told the jurors to continue talks, pointing out after the first note that they had only been deliberating several hours.
If the jury resolves the issue, the second stage of deliberations involves weighing factors presented by prosecutors such as the cruel and heinous nature of the deaths against other factors cited by defense attorneys such as Hayes’ drug addiction and abusive childhood.
Hayes was convicted last month of sexually assaulting and strangling Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Authorities say her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze.
The girls’ father, Dr. William Petit, was beaten and tied up but managed to escape to a neighbor's house to get help.
The New Haven jury is considering whether to sentence Hayes to death or life in prison.
Hayes’ co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, will be tried next year.
Hayes’ defense called a psychiatrist who said Hayes was in an extreme emotional state triggered after Komisarjevsky falsely told him he had killed the girls before they died in the fire. Prosecutors rejected that argument, saying Hayes’ own confession showed he knew the girls were still alive.