It's Death for Hayes

A New Haven jury has decided Steven Hayes should die for his part in the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, in Cheshire.

Jurors and members of the Petit family cried as the clerk read the verdicts and Judge Jon Blue warned everyone to keep their emotions in check. 

Jurors returned the verdict on Monday, the day after a rare weekend court session. By 4:30 p.m, Hayes was already on death row, according to an official from the state Department of Correction.  

Hayes was charged with six capital felony counts, each of which carried possibility of the death penalty.

It took jurors four days of deliberating to reach the decision and they sentenced him to death on all six, making him the 10th person in the state to stand on death row.

As Hayes was sentenced, he showed no emotion and just stared ahead at the clerk who read the verdicts. The official sentencing will be on Thursday, Dec. 2.

“I think the jury took its time to listed to the evidence and make an appropriate and just decision,” said Dr. William Petit, the only survivor of the home invasion.

Hayes’ defense attorney, Thomas Ullman, quoted Mahatma Gandhi when he spoke to the media after the verdict. 

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind,” he said “We are devastated by the verdict and intend to fight this, tooth and nail.”

This is what Hayes wanted, he said.

“He is thrilled. He is very happy with the verdict. That’s what’s he wanted all along, suicide by state, since he can’t kill himself,” Ullmann said. 
Dr. Petit broke down in tears in the courtroom and said later it was for the loss of his family.

Michaela was just a little girl, he said, and Hayley was strong and had a lot of potential. His wife was never allowed to carrying on the work she had done as a nurse, he said.  

"Michaela was an 11-year-old kid, tortured and killed in her own bedroom," as she was surrounded by stuffed animals, Dr. Petit said. ""Fortunately in this case, justice delayed wasn't justice denied."

He added that this is not about revenge. "This is about justice," he said.

The Petit, Hawke and Renn families have stood together through the whole ordeal, Dr. Petit said, back to 2007, when the brutal crimes happened.

Petit was hospitalized when the time came to identify the bodies of his wife and daughters, so Jennifer’s sister, Johanna Petit Chapman, and his brother Glen went to identify the remains.

When they returned to Dr. Petit, he asked if they could have an open casket wake. They both looked at him, he said.   

While the autopsy photos were never released to the media, the facts show that the women died of smoke inhallation in a burning home. The jury did see the autopsy photos, which brought them to tears.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a statement soon after the verdict was released.

"“The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities," Rell said in a statement.

They sentenced him to death for felony murder of multiple victims and murder of a victim under the age of 16. Michaela Petit was 11 when she was killed. 

They also sentenced him to death for the murder and kidnapping of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and the murder and kidnapping of Hayley, Jennifer's 17-year-old daughter.

He was also sentenced to death for  the murder of Michaela during the kidnapping and for murder of the victim of sex assault  --Jennifer Hawke Petit.

The jurors were crying as the clerk read through the form.

Before Hayes was dismissed from the courtroom, Blue told the jurors they are free to talk about the case. For the first time in the case, he told the marshals to "take the defendant away" in front of the jury. 

“We are grateful that we are part of a society that feels that just some people do not deserve to live in God’s world,” Richard Hawke, Jennifer Hawke-Petit’s father, said.

The Cheshire home invasion case entered the most recent statewide debate on the death penalty. In 2009, Rell vetoed a House bill that sought to end the death penalty in the state and mentioned the brutal slayings.

 “I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree," Rell said.

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