Shortly after Steven Hayes was charged with killing a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror in their home in 2007, his brother called him a monster who could be hanged for his crimes.
But last April, Matthew Hayes wrote his brother after nearly three years of soul-searching. Steven Hayes' attorneys had the letter read to a jury Friday, a day after prosecutors cited the comments from an earlier letter, as his defense tries to persuade them not to give Steven Hayes the death penalty.
"No matter what you've done, you are still my brother," Matthew Hayes wrote. "Love is the emotion that doesn't turn on or off."
But Matthew Hayes said he had no empathy for his brother. He wrote the letter after his brother had tried to kill himself in prison and urged him not be a coward and to "allow what has to unfold without hindrance."
"Your wish to die is understandable but I have no respect for it," he wrote. "It's not your choice. Your life is in God's hands. Show me your soul is worth saving and I'll do what I have the capacities to do."
Matthew Hayes said he would not help anyone hang or save his brother. He repeatedly invokes the memory of their mother, saying she faced her demons and died peacefully.
"If you do what is required of you, she will be there to welcome you when it is your time," Matthew Hayes wrote. "God, nor your mother, want you now, because your work here isn't finished."
A New Haven jury is hearing testimony to decide whether Hayes should get a death sentence or life in prison in the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in Cheshire.
Authorities said Hayes and another ex-convict, Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the Petit house, beat Hawke-Petit's husband, William, with a baseball bat and forced her to withdraw money from a bank before Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled her. Their daughters, Michaela and Hayley, died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds with pillowcases over their heads and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze, according to testimony.
Hayes' attorneys this week focused on his childhood, calling a psychiatrist who said Hayes' father forced Steven and Matthew Hayes to "duke it out" over who would get a beating for a household infraction. Hayes' younger brother often got severe beatings because Hayes would force him to take the blame, according to testimony.
"If I'm sorry for anything Steven, I'm sorry your mother and father didn't beat you to a pulp when they should have," Matthew wrote. "I took most of those beatings and yet here I am, and there you sit. Perhaps less abandonment by your father and less enabling by your mother, things might have turned out differently for you, perhaps, but then again, who can say."
Hayes' defense also tried Friday to contrast Hayes with Komisarjevsky, whom they call the mastermind of the crime who escalated the violence. They portrayed Hayes as a petty thief who took pains to avoid confrontations and was so unsophisticated he would return to a crime scene to break into cars by smashing windows with rocks.
By contrast, they said, Komisarjevksy was a home invasion specialist who wore night-vision goggles as he broke into homes with children present and bragged about breaking into a state trooper's home.
After the crime, Hayes was so remorseful he tried to kill himself, but Komisarjevsky wrote of how he enjoyed aspects of the crime, Dr. Eric Goldsmith, a psychiatrist, testified Friday.
"They are polar opposite responses," Goldsmith said. Komisarjevsky's writings were similar to those of a psychopath, he said.
Prosecutors say both men are equally responsible. Komisarjevsky faces trial next year.
Also Friday, Superior Court Judge Jon Blue dismissed a juror who was overheard making a derogatory comment to another juror.
A clerk heard the comment, possibly directed at Goldsmith or Hayes' attorney, on Friday after testimony resumed.
An alternate juror will be chosen to replace the dismissed panelist. There is now only one alternate juror left.