Jury to hear closing arguments in home invasion sentencing

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2011 10:03 AM
Jury to hear closing arguments in home invasion sentencing

By Mary Ellen Godin

NEW HAVEN, Conn (Reuters) - The sentencing phase for a man convicted of a brutal home invasion drew nearer to a close on Friday as prosecutors and defense attorneys were set to make closing arguments over whether he should be executed.

Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, one of two men found guilty in the 2007 Cheshire, Connecticut attack, faces the death penalty for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11.

His accomplice Steven Hayes was convicted separately of similar charges and has been sentenced to death.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in New Haven Superior Court have two hours each on Friday to present final arguments to the 12-member jury, the same panel that convicted Komisarjevsky in October of murder, kidnapping, arson and sexual assault.

The jury can opt to sentence him to death or to life in prison without parole.

During the several weeks of the case's penalty phase, family members, former friends, employers and psychological experts have testified about Komisarjevsky's upbringing and background.

The defense said he was a victim of sexual molestation as a child and that his extremely religious parents relied on prayer and failed to get him clinical help for his troubled behavior.

Komisarjevsky also was convicted of beating Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the attack.

Petit's wife was raped and strangled and the girls, tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation after the home was set on fire. The younger girl was sexually assaulted.

Petit was tied up in the basement but managed to escape as the house went up in flames.

The defense has presented a list of 43 so-called mitigating factors arguing against a death sentence, which the jury must weigh against a series of aggravating factors cited by prosecutors.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Monday.

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

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)