Judge: Jury can hear Conn. home invasion statement

August 26, 2011 - 12:50 PM

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Jurors will be able to hear the chilling confession of a paroled burglar charged with killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion, because there was no evidence to support his claim that he was sleep-deprived when he gave it, a judge ruled Friday.

Defense attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky, whose trial begins next month, argued that he had been awake for more than 40 hours by the time he finished giving two statements to police about what happened during the home invasion in Cheshire. They said the statements should not be used as evidence during the trial and asked the judge to bar t.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue rejected those claims and set another pretrial hearing for Sept. 12, exactly a week before the trial is set to begin.

"There is no indication that at any time the defendant said he was tired," Blue said. "It would be purely speculative for the court to find that the defendant was sleep-deprived at any point in this saga."

Blue noted that Komisarjevsky was read his Miranda rights at least four times after being arrested and was no stranger to the criminal justice system, having been charged before with burglaries and other crimes.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 11- and 17-year-old daughters, Michaela and Hayley, on July 23, 2007, after breaking into their suburban home and severely beating Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit Jr., who survived. Hawke-Petit was sexually assaulted and strangled, and the two girls died of smoke inhalation from a fire that was set before the two suspects fled the house, police said. Michaela was also sexually assaulted, investigators said.

Hayes was convicted of capital felony, murder and other crimes last year and is now on death row. Komisarjevsky also could get the death penalty if convicted.

William Petit didn't attend Friday's hearing, a rare absence from the proceedings. His father, William Petit Sr., said his son was taking a long-needed vacation.

"We're definitely pleased," the elder Petit said after the hearing ended. He said Komisarjevsky's confession to police "was given voluntarily, and it's going to be important to the trial."

In the statement, a copy of which The Associated Press obtained this week, Komisarjevsky called the crime "home invading gone terribly wrong" and insisted he never intended to kill the family. He claimed Hayes came up with the idea to kill the family because he was worried the pair would leave behind evidence. He said Hayes doused the house with gasoline and lit the match that engulfed the home in flames.

Komisarjevsky also said he tied up the victims and molested Michaela. But he said Hayes escalated the violence at key moments during the night of terror, foreshadowing what is likely to be the defense strategy at Komisarjevsky's trial.

During his trial, Hayes portrayed Komisarjevsky as the mastermind.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes were arrested shortly after the killings, when they crashed the family's car into police cruisers.

Prosecutors say the two men, paroled burglars who met at a halfway house, were equally responsible for the crime, which drew comparisons to the 1959 slayings portrayed in Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood."

Komisarjevsky's lawyer, Walter Bansley III, asked the judge to consider his client's state of mind when he gave the police statements.

"The detective well knew that Mr. Komisarjevsky had been up all the night before," Bansley said.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers said their client had not slept for 29 to 31 hours before police first questioned him. When he made a second statement to police, it had been 41 to 43 hours since he had last slept, they said.

State's Attorney Michael Dearington said Komisarjevsky "never complained ... that he was suffering from sleep deprivation."

The judge and Dearington also rejected defense suggestions that Komisarjevsky was also impaired by injuries from the car crash when he confessed.