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December 10, 2011

Second defendant gets death sentence for multiple killings in Connecticut

As reported in this New York Times piece, late yesterday a jury finally reached a sentencing decision in a high-profile Connecticut capital case.  Here are the basics:

One of Connecticut’s most agonizing courtroom dramas came to an end on Friday as a jury voted to impose the death penalty on the second of two killers of three family members after an ordeal of violence and sexual assault that challenged suburban ideals of safety.

Lawyers for the second convicted killer, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, had waged an aggressive fight to avoid a capital sentence since Oct. 13, when he was convicted of the crimes, which drew national attention in 2007. But the jury in New Haven unanimously voted for capital punishment on each of the six capital counts he faced.

Mr. Komisarjevsky’s trial in Superior Court followed the trial of his co-defendant, Steven J. Hayes, who was sentenced to death last year. The two men burst into the home of the Petits in Cheshire, Conn., beat and tied up the father, Dr. William A. Petit Jr., and wreaked havoc for hours before setting the house on fire with the family’s two girls tied to their beds....

One juror, Timothy Anderson, said jurors were sobbing on Friday as they reached the verdict. Mr. Anderson said he was the last to decide to vote for death, “but when you look at the whole thing, it’s so horrific.”

The defense lawyers presented a series of misfortunes that they said Mr. Komisarjevsky had suffered in his life as they worked to change perceptions of him that had been forged by revulsion at the killing of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Mr. Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Ms. Hawke-Petit and killing the daughters, who died of smoke inhalation.  At his separate trial, Mr. Komisarjevsky was convicted of the killings and a host of other crimes, including sexually assaulting the 11-year-old and making prurient photographs of her on his cellphone.

In weeks of testimony, the defense lawyers worked to cast Mr. Komisarjevsky as a damaged person worthy of life, though one that would certainly be lived behind prison bars.  The lawyers said that Mr. Komisarjevsky was sexually abused as a child, suffered mood disorders and head injuries, abused drugs and cut himself with glass, knives and razors, and that his evangelical Christian adoptive parents denied him proper care, relying instead on religion.

Connecticut's history in (not) carrying out executions suggest it will likely be decades before the two condemned defendants here get close to actually heading toward a death chamber.  In the meantime, I hope all the surviving victims of this tragedy get some comfort and closure from this second symbolic death sentence.  

December 10, 2011 at 09:26 AM | Permalink


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The defendants should have been executed as repeat violent offenders, and crazy ones at that, prior to age 18, sparing hundreds of victims their lives and suffering. The internal traitor lawyer kept them alive to kill and maim, in order to maintain their lousy government make work jobs. I would like to see a self-help movement come after the legislators physically, the judges, the defense lawyers responsible for the suffering of hundreds of people from just these defendants. As the internal traitor lawyers show no mercy to victims, so none should be shown them. Kneecap them. To deter. Violence has full intellectual, moral, and policy justification, including the self dealt immunities of the internal traitor lawyer for their totally irresponsible protection of savage, violent repeat offenders.

As to the history of abuse of one defendant, the abuse arose because the defendant was so violent and incorrigible. It caused nothing. It was a result of the character of the defendant.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 10, 2011 9:52:09 AM

To say that this drama came to an end would be a joke if it were funny. This is just curtains on act 2 of a long and tedious play where the writers forgot the rule that the good guys are supposed to win in the end and the bad guys are supposed to get their just desserts.

Of course, for these two, their just desserts would likely be a Hollywood style impaling death or some such and I doubt any of the unions involved would go for that since these two wouldn't have stunt doubles standing in for them or any trick photography.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 10, 2011 10:40:18 AM

Closure for all victims can only come when the people with the real responsibility for these foreseeable murders are brought to justice, the hierarchy of the lawyer profession. These are totally heartless, irresponsible internal traitors to the nation, totally responsible for every social ill, and failure of the nation. By their plunder and crushing of progress and striving they keep the US at near Third World standards.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 10, 2011 10:51:35 AM

"In the meantime, I hope all the surviving victims of this tragedy get some comfort and closure from this second symbolic death sentence."

With all respect, it is misguided to refer to this as a "tragedy." An earthquake is a tragedy. A tsunami is a tragedy. This was less tragedy than pure evil.

If we're looking to save public money, let me suggest that not one dime be spent for any further litigation in this case. There is absolutely no question of guilt. There is no question of the beyond-imagination, for-kicks grotesque suffering visited upon the victims. There is no question of racism or sleeping lawyers or all the other rote complaints capital defense lawyers have on their word processors.

Every further taxpayer dollar spent here is a taxpayer dollar that could be spent somewhere else, from extremely worthy and urgent programs to the numerous government frolics that are mostly waste. Every single one of them is a wiser use of funds than spending any more to keep the Excuse Machine running for this guy.

Expensive and protracted appeals in some capital cases are indeed a hallmark of a nation committed to decency (to anticipate the coming "you must be a Nazi" wails). But this is not such a case. The prompt execution of this monster is a sign, not of barbarism, but of sanity.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 10, 2011 11:22:28 AM

Whoever had these birds on the street needs to be liable to the estates of the murder victims. I want any justification for the unconscionable self-dealt immunity of the judge and lawyer. There is none. Its sole validation is at the point of a gun. If the legislature tries to remedy it with any law, it will be declared unconstitutional. An amendment to the constitution is needed to make judges and lawyers legally accountable for their carelessness. Until an amendment passes, violent retaliation by the families of murder victims has full intellectual, moral, and policy justification. Kneecap the internal traitor criminal lovers. Do not kill them. That would not be enough suffering, and their competitors would love to replace them. Juries would then be told of their higher duty to our nation to set the kneecapper free to protect our society from the judge/legislator/lawyer pestilence. Like huge sewer rats, they show no mercy to victims. They cannot even utter the V word without choking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 10, 2011 6:35:50 PM

Death penalty obstructionists are morally reprehensible, and self-dealing, pro-criminal thieves of tax money. The rent comes before the survival of innocent girls and their mothers. Morally sickening.

DP appellate lawyers should also be targeted for kneecapping by the families of murder victims. We invaded two countries when terrorists killed 3000 of our people. We likely killed 3 million of theirs. Seems fair enough, 1000 of them are worth one of ours.

Now do the same to the internal traitors allowing 17,000 killings of our people a year. Arrest them. Give them an hour's fair trial. Execute the entire hierarchy.

The campaign should start with a black list. All the pro-criminal lawyers and judges get boycotted by all service and product providers. Shun them from all their resources.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 10, 2011 6:43:45 PM

It might actually move the debate forward if those opposed to, or skeptical about, the DP would analyse the specifics of THIS CASE and tell us why THIS KILLER should get only jailtime.

Doubts about guilt? Nope.

Incompetent defense counsel? Nope.

Crooked prosecutors? Nope.

Racial influence? Nope.

Backward culture? Nope.

Killing is always wrong? Nope (not that anyone actually believes it anyway).

So what then?

Why is it that retentionists are willing to engage extensively on the tough cases for their side (Willingham, Troy Davis, Roger Keith Coleman (before being exposed)), but the abbies are nowhere to be seen on this one? And picked lint off their suits during the Timothy McVeigh case? Why is that?

Q: How do you know Side A has lost the debate?

A: When Side A wordlessly slinks away from the podium.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 11, 2011 6:32:31 AM

Call me an optimist, but I have a feeling that these sentences will be carried out more quickly than people think. Dr. Petit will be pushing the justice system hard, and I don't think that there is much of a Strickland argument for them on habeas, no matter how liberal the 2d Circuit is.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 11, 2011 10:51:51 AM


I wish that was true. There are several Connecticut death row inmates who have been there for a decade and haven't exhausted state remedies yet, let alone federal court.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 11, 2011 12:15:01 PM

I am generally pessimistic about the death penalty in America. I think the judicial resistance is far too strong. I become more pessimistic when I see Justices like Alito questioning the Alabama AG about why he didn't waive procedural default for the benefit of a vicious murderer, (See Maples Oral Arg. Tr.), as if the state should be helping a killer prosecute his appeals--talk about an inappropriate question. But with respect to this case, my guess is that Petit is going to push hard for this and isn't going to tolerate the wink and nod delays.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 11, 2011 12:38:24 PM


Petit might be outspoken and influential but he is in a state which has no interest in carrying the sentences out.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 11, 2011 1:02:10 PM

Because the real motivation for delaying executions is not opposition to the death penalty, but lawyer rent seeking, the abolitionists are really stealing tax money, including the hypocritical abolitionists on the Supreme Court. Because they run the criminal law, there is no legal recourse, not even impeachment. That leaves violent self help by families of murder victims, less against the murderers, but against the lawyers and judges. I hope the lawyers and judges here can begin to understand the intellectual underpinnings for this conclusion, and voluntarily provide legal alternatives.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 11, 2011 1:04:36 PM

Well, DaveP, let's hope you're wrong. I definitely understand where you are coming from that my optimism is foolish. I guess I just can't imagine people actually engaging in the utter cruelty to thwart justice in this case.

Let's hope that dates start getting set in some states which have a backlog: Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 11, 2011 1:10:50 PM

federalist and DaveP --

Notice that the abbies, who filled this site to overflowing when the subject was Troy Davis or their pal Willingham, are STILL maintaining radio silence on this one.

My, my, my.

This is why I prefer live debates. Your opponent can't just run off. He can dodge and weave (which is what always happens when a hellish case like this comes up), but at least they have to pay the price of dodging and weaving, to wit, that the audience sees that's exactly what they're doing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 11, 2011 6:43:24 PM


I did not imply that your optimism was foolish. I don't think that the powers that be in Connecticut care about the death penalty enough to see it carried out. Just because this Petit case gained immense publicity, doesn't mean that it is going to jump ahead in the appeals process in front of the present inmates who are still in post conviction.

As for your other point, it is amazing that 3 plus years after Baze, the anti DP folks have continued to thwart the states you cite.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 11, 2011 7:11:31 PM

Bill, Federalist, SC, et al:

If the facts in this case are as they are represented (and I somehow have little doubt that they are), I would be the first to torture the SOB's before pulling the switch.

However, refusal to find distinctions in this and other cases (Todd Willingham for instance), tells me more about you and your way of thinking than you can imagine.

Bill, your refusal to recognize criminal behavior by any prosecutor (I am actively following the Hutaree case in MI), let's me know the apologist that you are.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 11, 2011 10:54:26 PM

Albeed: The murderer generates massive government make work, with the highest salaries going to lawyers and judges. The victim generates nothing, and may rot. Left wing ideologues do not even care about mistakes, justice, murderers. They just care about their own government make work jobs. So DP extreme obstructionists need to start to place a disclaimer in all their hypocritical utterances, especially the morally reprehensible lawyer and judge, that all their arguments are in their own economic self-interest. Not only are they stealing tax dollars at the point of a gun in rent seeking, they are lying about it to the public. "I am really defending the constitution."

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 12, 2011 5:34:56 AM

"I would be the first…pulling the switch"


Would you be the first or at least lend your voice to the call of "Bill, Federalist, SC, et al" to Bill, to limit 'expensive and protracted appeals in capital cases'?

If so, I shall applaud your push on behalf of justice for victims.

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 12, 2011 9:28:37 AM

lol well adamakis i will lend my voice. i think multiple appeals EXCEPT for 3 things are illegal and a waste of time and resources.

1. New Evidence that was not presented in the original trial
2. New science or procedures are in place that can bring new information out of old evidence!
3. Any deviation on the part of EITHER the DA, Judge, or the Defense Attorney based on the law in place AT THE TIME!
3a. Any PROVEN deviation from any member of the justice system should result in a minimum confinment for the individual using the original accused's time in confinment as a starting point!

That's it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 12, 2011 2:15:35 PM

Adam., SC, et al:

As Bill has so eloquently expounded in the past, any system made by humankind is essentially imperfect and mistakes will be made.

What I find troubling is his lack of empathy for those prosecuted and convicted (even though innocent) by a criminal government. That he lacks the wisdom to acknowledge a criminal government (in any case) is what troubles me. That is why I call "gubermint" his "God".

Posted by: albeed | Dec 13, 2011 12:09:50 AM


I have a close relative who is wholly on the defence-bar side in the South, and I share concern with both of you for the wrongly convicted. I intend to delve into the Hutaree case.

I also find RodSmith's argument to allow only probative appeals--meaningful & relevant to conviction--greatly compelling.

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 13, 2011 10:24:44 AM

Um, where have I ever ducked innocence issues? That I think Willingham did it doesn't mean I don't think that the system should constantly strive to catching the guilty and exonerating the innocent.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 14, 2011 11:41:37 AM

ked innocence issues? That I think Willingham did it doesn't mean I don't think that the system should constantly strive to catching the guilty and exonerating the innocent.

Posted by: ed hardy uk | May 30, 2012 6:01:11 AM

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