NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut judge ruled Tuesday that three police recordings were not given to lawyers for convicted killer Joshua Komisarjevsky before his trial, bolstering his pending appeal before the state Supreme Court.
Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were convicted of murdering a woman and her two daughters during a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, after terrorizing the family for hours. Both are appealing their convictions.
The police recordings are of calls between Cheshire police officers during the response to the home invasion. Komisarjevsky's appeal lawyers said the recordings would have helped his trial attorneys because they boost the defense claim that the police response was inadequate, which they said casts doubt on the credibility of officers who testified for the prosecution.
Prosecutors say nothing on the recordings warrants a new trial.
New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue said the failure to provide the recordings to Komisarjevsky's lawyers was the result of human error and not deliberate.
Prosecutors and Komisarjevsky's appeal lawyers, John Holdridge and Moira Buckley, agreed that some recordings were not turned over to Komisarjevsky's trial lawyers because they were found in a town hall vault in 2014. Police said the original recordings were destroyed in a lightning strike at the police station in 2010 before Komisarjevsky's trial. The recordings found at town hall were backups.
On one of the three recordings a SWAT team member is told to stand down and not report to the police department; on another, a hostage negotiator is told not to respond to the scene. On the third recording, an officer is heard questioning whether victim Jennifer Hawke-Petit's comments to a bank teller that her family is being held hostage were legitimate.
Prosecutors said on the morning of the killings, Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank, where she withdrew $15,000. They then returned to the Petit house, where police say Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled Hawke-Petit.
Hawke-Petit's two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, died of smoke inhalation in a fire set before Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the home in the family's car, crashed into police cruisers and were arrested. Authorities said Komisarjevsky also sexually assaulted Michaela. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was severely beaten but survived.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were sentenced to death, but the state Supreme Court last year abolished the death penalty for the men on Connecticut's death row.
The judge also is planning to hear from Hawke-Petit's sister about emails between her and a police officer, before the appeal returns to the state Supreme Court.