Home invasion suspect tries to avoid death penalty

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2011 12:30 PM
Home invasion suspect tries to avoid death penalty

By Mary Ellen Godin

NEW HAVEN, Conn (Reuters) - The second defendant in a grisly home invasion case that left a mother and her two daughters dead made a desperate attempt on Tuesday to avoid the death sentence given to his alleged accomplice.

Joshua Komisarjevsky's lawyers urged a judge in New Haven Superior Court to remove his confession to police from evidence that will be presented at his murder trial starting September 19.

The 90-minute taped conversation with Komisarjevsky about what occurred in the home during the early hours of July 27, 2007 was described in court by Cheshire Police Detective Joseph Vitello.

Komisarjevsky, in an orange jumpsuit and leg shackles and seated between his lawyers, looked up as the detective testified that he three times waived his right to remain silent, to have an attorney present and to talk freely.

The hearing to suppress evidence came a day after Komisarjevsky's lawyers lost their effort to bar the family father and only survivor, Dr. William Petit Jr., from the courtroom during next month's trial.

It also came less than six months after a defense move for a plea deal to avoid Death Row was struck down by the prosecutor.

Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and two daughters Haley, 17 and Michaela, 11, were killed when Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes invaded the family home in 2007, prosecutors said.

Hayes was tried and convicted of murder last year and sentenced to death.

Testimony from the trial revealed Komisarjevsky struck Petit several times in the head with a baseball bat leaving him unconscious while his family was tied up and terrorized.

Petit, who was bound in the basement, managed to free himself and escape to a neighbor's home.

In addition to the murder charges, Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting the younger daughter before the home was set on fire and the girls and their mother perished.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, Connecticut has only executed one person, in 2005, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)