Judge rejects Conn. home invasion retrial request

January 18, 2012 - 11:45 AM

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A judge denied a request Wednesday by convicted murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky for a retrial in the home invasion killings of a woman and her two daughters, saying he received a fair trial.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue denied motions for a new trial and that the conviction be overturned.

Komisarjevsky joined co-defendant Steven Hayes on death row last month for the 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters in Cheshire.

Hayes raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, while Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted her 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, were tied to their beds, were doused in gas and died of smoke inhalation after the house was set on fire.

Komisarjevsky beat the girls' father, Dr. William Petit, with a bat and tied him up. Petit escaped to a neighbor's house to get help.

Komisarjevsky argued the proceedings should have been moved because of the case's notoriety in New Haven and the "emotional effect of a clearly visible Petit posse" at the trial advocating capital punishment.

Blue said the victims' family behaved in a dignified manner and the jury was attentive and "remarkably fair." He said the defense arguments left the impression that the trial atmosphere led the jury to feel pressured to come up with a particular verdict.

"I don't really see that at all," Blue said, adding that the jury took its time before reaching a grave decision.

While the defense objected to pins the victims' family wore to court in their memory, Blue said he did not believe the pins were designed to intimidate jurors or appeal to their emotions.

The defense also noted that Petit sat very close to the jury. But Blue noted that during the trial the defense was allowed to switch seats with prosecutors so Komisarjevsky was seated close to the jury.

"Under these circumstances, I just don't think it's fair to say that the jury was influenced by outside pressures or anything like that," Blue said. "Under these circumstances, I believe the trial was perfectly fair and a new trial should not be granted."

Komisarjevsky's attorneys also argued the conviction should be overturned because the evidence did not show he intended to kill anyone. Blue said that was matter for the jury to decide, but he called the evidence "exceptionally strong."

Komisarjevsky gave police a lengthy confession after the crime. The men were caught fleeing the scene.

Komisarjevsky attorney Jeremiah Donovan acknowledged Wednesday that the arguments had been previously rejected but said he wanted to preserve the record for an appeal.

Petit, who recently became engaged, was not in court for the hearing.

Komisarjevky will be formally sentenced next week.