One of two convicts sentenced to death in a Connecticut home invasion sent suicidal letters before he was found unresponsive in his cell Monday, his attorney said Thursday.
Steven Hayes remained in stable condition Thursday at a hospital, a correction department spokesman said. Hayes implied in the letters he would be dead by the time they were received, said his attorney, Tom Ullmann.
"I don't think there's any question that it was an attempted suicide," Ullmann said.
Asked why Hayes tried to kill himself, Ullmann said, "The conditions of confinement are oppressive." He accused rogue correctional officers of harassing Hayes, declining to discuss details except to cite the removal of items from Hayes' cell such as extra blankets.
Prisoners on death row are kept in isolation 23 hours per day, Ullmann added.
Hayes, 50, is on death row for the 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, after a night of torment inside their home in Cheshire. Another man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, also was convicted and sentenced to death for the home invasion killings.
A federal judge in November denied Hayes' lawsuit seeking to change his conditions at Northern Correctional Institution, ruling that he did not provide any evidence that his mental health treatment was inadequate or to back up his request for changes to his diet.
Hayes also said his legal papers were confiscated as a form of harassment or retaliation. The judge said the failure of prison staff to provide a full response to that claim "gives the court pause," but he said Hayes had not shown irreparable harm.
Hayes more recently filed an emergency motion seeking relief, saying his prison cell was too cold and that he was misdiagnosed by staff who claimed his suicidal tendencies, depression and other issues stemmed from his crime rather than his conditions.
"I would rather die than endure these conditions any longer," Hayes wrote last month.
Hayes did acknowledge that he should be in prison.
"I do not deserve to be psychologically tormented or refused proper treatment," Hayes wrote. "To date I still suffer from deep emotional periods when I reflect on the pain I caused due to my crime and past actions."
In court papers, prison staff members deny harassing Hayes or violating his rights. Hayes was subject to discipline after he violated rules by sitting on the floor in protest of a search of his cell and refusing to return his handcuffs upon returning to his cell, officials said.
A Department of Correction spokesman declined to comment.
The attorney general's office, representing prison staff, said Hayes' cell is kept at 74 degrees, not 55 degrees as he claimed, and that mental health treatment was available to Hayes but he refused it.
Hayes, who has a history of suicide attempts, also sent a suicide note to The Hartford Courant in which he called Northern a "psychological torture chamber," the newspaper reported.