Home invasion defendant offers to plead guilty

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 6:20 PM
Home invasion defendant offers to plead guilty

A man facing a death penalty trial in a fatal home invasion has offered to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for a life sentence without parole, according to court documents filed Friday.

The plea offer from Joshua Komisarjevsky comes less than a week before the start of jury selection for his trial in New Haven Superior Court.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and a co-defendant, Steven Hayes, killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, following a night of terror inside their Cheshire home in 2007. Dr. William Petit, Hawke-Petit's husband and the girl's father, was beaten with a baseball bat but survived.

The motion formally asks the court to accept a conditional plea that Komisarjevsky, 30, has offered previously to prosecutors. Hayes made a similar offer but it was rejected, and he was convicted last year and sentenced to death.

Defense attorneys wrote in the motion that Komisarjevsky is making the offer primarily to "avoid another lengthy, expensive and emotionally charged trial that will undoubtedly cause extreme mental anguish to the Petit and to the Hawke families, to the community-at-large and to his own family, friends and supporters."

Komisarjevsky and Hayes, 47, were both paroled burglars who blamed each other for escalating the attack. Prosecutors say both men were equally responsible.

In the court papers Friday, defense lawyers say Komisarjevsky told police following his arrest that he never intended for the family to be killed.

"I'm like I'm not killing anyone, there's no way," the motion quotes Komisarjevsky as telling Hayes moments before the slaying.

Authorities say the girls were tied to their beds, with gasoline poured on or around them, before the house was set on fire, leading to their deaths from smoke inhalation. Hayes was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit.

Prosecutors and a defense attorney declined to comment on the motion.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 16, a process that could take months as lawyers for both sides question prospective jurors for the case.