Steven Hayes was sentenced to death by a Connecticut jury today for his role in the deadly 2007 home invasion that killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
The verdict came halfway through day four of deliberation for the jury that spend the whole weekend holed up in a New Haven courtroom discussing the fate of Hayes, 47.
Hayes is convicted of raping and choking Hawke-Petit to death, while accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit.
Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, died after they were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.
The jury had struggled several times during deliberation to agree on a sentence for Hayes. On the first day of delibrations the jurors sent a note to Judge Jon Blue asking, “What does it mean to unanimously find the existence of a statutory mitigating factor?”
After meeting with the judge and resuming deliberations, a second note sought additional clarification on mitigating factors, specifically on mental capacity and “conforming to law.”
Mitigating circumstances would allow the jurors to sentence Hayes to life in prison rather than to be executed. The note gave an example in which two jurors indicated that they saw no mitigating circumstances and Hayes should be to put to death.
In order for Hayes to be sentenced to death, the jury had to have found Hayes guilty of several aggravating factors beyond just committing the crime, according to the state.
Those aggravating factors included committing the murders during the commission of third-degree burglary as well as committing the offenses in a “heinous manner, extreme physical or psychological pain above and beyond that which was necessary” and with “grave risk.”
Prosecutors have argued that Hayes and his accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the Petits’ home and battered the husband, Dr. William Petit, with a bat. Petit escaped to a neighbor’s house to call for help.
Hayes is convicted of raping and choking Hawke-Petit to death, while Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.