Thursday, September 29, 2011

She was “physically helpless”

In testimony Thursday, state associate medical examiner Dr. Susan Williams said Jennifer Hawke-Petit’s body was “burned beyond recognition” and so she was identified through dental records.

Additionally, Williams, said portions of fabric were around Hawke-Petit's neck and ligatures were tied in knots around her ankles.

Photos of the blackened ligatures, shown here, and of Hawke-Petit’s damaged larynx during the autopsy, were shown on the courtroom screen.
Williams said she found fractures of Hawke-Petit’s thyroid cartilage on both sides. The diagram below also was used in court. Williams noted evidence of compression of the artery and jugular vein.

 Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Gary Nicholson asked how long it took Hawke-Petit to die.
“It depends on how much of a struggle there is,” Williams replied, “and whether there’s constant compression.”
She agreed with Nicholson’s description of Hawke-Petit as being “physically helpless.”
Williams also said that because there was no soot in her air passages or lungs and no carbon monoxide in her blood, Hawke-Petit died before the fire. The photo above shows the Petit's burned family room after the fire was out.
Editor's note: The text in this post is by Register Reporter Randall Beach

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A home destroyed by fire

Some of the testimony in the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial Thursday focused on what the state fire marshal found at the Petit house following the home invasion and furious fire that took place there on July 23, 2007.

Testimony Thursday focused on the outside of the home; on Friday the official is expected to speak to damage inside the home

These photos, released during the trial of co-defendant Steven Hayes, show what the home looked like after the fire was out.

The Petit home was later razed and a memorial garden was installed at the site.

This photo shows fire damage as well as a tie that may have been used to tie Jennifer Hawke-Petit to her bed while Komisarjevsky and Hayes were in the home that day.

This photo at left shows the bedroom of Hayley Petit, 17, who also was tied to he bed, but escaped and made it as far as the hallway. Hayley died of smoke inhalation.

This photo shows the extensive smoke damage that occurred in the house. The fire was fueled by gasoline that had been spread around the house, according to prosecutors. Komisarjevsky has claimed Hayes bought the gas and spread it around the house. He also claims Hayes lit the match that set the fire.

This bottom photo shows the fire damage at the back of the home.The state fire official testified that severe heat broke windows to the home's sun room, letting in oxygen that intensified the fire.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hayes at the gas station

A packed away Christmas tree

In one of the evidence photos released during the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky are many that show the inside of the Petit home after the crimes.
This photo is of the basement where Dr. William Petit Jr. was taken after he was beaten on July 23, 2007.
But among the items clearly stored there is a covered Christmas tree and other personal items. Children's games dot the shelves.
In the foreground there is what appears to be a tiny child's puppet play stage and two child-sized rocking chairs.


At the Komsarjevsky trial Wednesday

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Steven Hayes a part of Komisarjevsky trial

Some of the testimony and questions during the trial Tuesday focused on the trip co-defendant Steven Hayes made to the gas station on the day of the Cheshire home invasion.

The testimony in the trial is significant because Joshua Komisarjevsky alleged to police that it was Hayes who poured the gasoline around the Petit home and lit the match.

The jury convicted Hayes Oct. 5, 2010 on 16 counts in the July 23, 2007 siege, including six capital felony counts. Hayes, however, was found not guilty on the charge of first-degree arson. He is on Death Row.

Hayes spent $10 on the gasoline.

According to testimony during the Komisarjevsky trial, Hayes paid for the gas inside the station.

Hayes was seen outside, caught on video, gassing up the Petit's Chrysler Pacifica, according to testimony.   The video does not show Hayes filling up the plastic containers that allegedly were used to pour the gas around the Petit house.
The manager of the Mercury Fuel Services convenience store testified that she did not recall Hayes.

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Jurors continue to see evidence in trial

Jurors in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky saw a number of evidence photos of items taken from the home of the Petits.

The purple backback shown belonged to Hayley Petit, according to testimony.
There also were photos shown of evidence allegedly found in vehicles the suspect's used, according to testimony.

The red truck was one used by co-defendant Steven Hayes, who was convicted last year on 16 counts in the July 23, 2007 home invasion.

This evidence photo shows the inside of the Petit's minivan. The bag on the seat contains electronics.

Editor's note: These photos were released during the Hayes trial.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

A shopping trip for a mother and daughter

Authorities say that Joshua Komisarjevsky first spotted Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughter Michaela, 11, at the Stop & Shop store in Cheshire on the evening of July 22, 2007.

These photos, released to the media during the Komisarjevsky trial at Superior Court in New Haven, show mother and daughter in the store together.

Only hours later, authorities say, Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes invaded the Petit's home.

The mother, and her daughters, Michaela and Hayley, 17, died during the home invasion.
Authorities say Komisarjevsky also was in the Stop & Shop that night, because he was obtaining money from a contractor for whom he had worked. In the photo at bottom, Komisarjevsky can be seen standing near an ATM machine at the bank inside the grocery store.
Authorities allege, and Komisarjevsky says in the confession he gave to police, that he followed Hawke-Petit and Michaela home from the store.

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Follow live testimony beginning at 10 a.m.

Testimony in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky resumes at 10 a.m. today. Follow it live here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

At the Komisarjevsky home

Part of the testimony in the Joshua Komisarjevsky Cheshire triple slaying trial Thursday focused on the police search of the suspect's home in Cheshire, where he lived with his parents.

These images were released by the Connecticut Judicial Department, which is providing evidence in the case the media.

The photos were shown during testimony at Superior Court in New Haven.
Police did not specify which room was Joshua Komisarjevsky's.

   Komisarjevsky told police that his daughter was at his parent's house on the night of the Petit home invasion.
Komisarjevsky told police he had initially stayed home with his daughter the night of the home invasion and that he put his daughter to bed. He later went out and met up with Hayes in the parking lot at Stop & Shop, he told police. The two then went to the Petit home.
Police said they seized a computer and a laptop from the Komisarjevsky home.

A gun bought for cash

In his confession given to Cheshire police, Joshua Komisarjevsky said Steven Hayes, his co-defendant in the Cheshire triple slaying case, bought a gun - which he said was a "pellet" gun, or a "BB" gun.
Hayes bought the gun  at Wal-Mart in Southington,  Komisarjevsky told police in the confession.
Komisarjevsky told police he was with Hayes when the gun was purchased with cash.
Dr. William Petit Jr. has testified that after he was beaten with a baseball bat, he noticed that one of the intruders in his home had a gun.

Pattis blog: The shocking Komisarjevsky confession

In his blog today, found on the New Haven Register Community Media Lab, attorney Norm Pattis addresses the question: Komisarjevsky: Confession To Cops Good For The Soul?

Pattis contends: "No matter how good confession may be for the soul, it wreaks havoc on your bodily prospects."

Jurors in the case heard the taped confession  Wednesday; one of the female jurors became distraught, prompting Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue to stop the recording and send the panel home early for the day..

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Defense Exhibit 'A'

As defense attorneys in the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial questioned witnesses about the police response to the Petit home on July 23, 2007, the state Judicial Department released a transcript of the moves authorities made that day. This is a copy of that transcript. It was entered as a defense exhibit at Superior Court in New Haven.


Jurors must look at graphic evidence

The jury in the Joshua Komisarjesvky trial on Wednesday was shown graphic photos of the bodies of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11.

While the Connecticut Judicial Department during the trial of co-defendant Steven Hayes, released numerous copies of photos that are evidence in this case, the photos of the deceased Petit family members have never been released.

The photos here, however, depict some of the massive damage that occurred during the fire in the Petit home. 

These photos were initially released during the Hayes trial.

The photo at top shows the Petit's family room after the intense and fast moving fire.
The other photos were taken in bedrooms. Both girls were tied to their beds.  In Michaela's room, according to testimony during the Hayes trial. investigators found the soot-covered Louisville Slugger baseball bat, shown, that was allegedly used to beat Dr. William Petit Jr., the sole survivor of the home invasion.
The girls died of smoke inhalation; Hawke-Petit was strangled.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A stack of cash

Among the evidence photos released during the trial of Steven Hayes were images of items police said they found in the Petit home and car that day. They included the contents of wallets, the money Jennifer Hawke-Petit was forced to take out of the bank, and other personal items.

Some of these photos also have been introduced during the Komisarjevsky trial.

This is the contents of Dr. Petit's wallet.
This the the money police say Mrs. Petit withdrew from the bank.

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An attempt to flee and a car crash

During testimony Tuesday, a police officer spoke of the suspects allegedly fleeing the Petit house on the morning of July 23, 2007.
The Petit's stolen mini van crashed into a police car before the suspects, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, were taken into custody, according to testimony.

The top evidence photo shows a police officer standing at the side of the Petit's vehicle, a Chrysler Pacifica, with Komisarjevsky on the ground.

This photo in the middle shows a wall the suspects hit as they fled the Petit's home.
A defense attorney grilled Cheshire Police Capt. Robert Vignola about the time line of the department's response to a call about the home invasion at the Petit home, department policies and orders given that day, including not to initially approach the house.

The photo at bottom also is a police evidence image, which was released to the media during the trial of Steven Hayes.

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The Prosecution and the Defense

The main prosecutor in the case against Joshua Komisarjevsky is New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington, at right.
He is joined by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Gary Nicholson.
"Dearington is the “dean” of Connecticut’s State’s Attorneys, now in his 24th year in the position. He was first appointed State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford effective October 1, 1985, and since November 1987 has served as the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New Haven," according to the state Criminal Justice Commission website.

The Komisarjevsky defense team is made up of  Walter Bansley III, Jeremiah Donovan and Todd Bussert.

Bansley has been cited as the inspiration for the military lawyer played by Tom Cruise in the movie “A Few Good Men,” but that designation has been challenged by others. Bansley had a 20-year careers in the U.S. Marine Corps before he entered private practice, his website says.

In the bottom photo, Komisarjevsky's attorneys (left to right) Donovan, Bussert, and Bansley III walk out of Superior Court in New Haven during lunch recess on Feb. 15, 2011
Photo by Arnold Gold

In the top photo, Dearington arrives at court. Photo by Mara Lavitt

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Trial Day 2: Evidence photos of injuries

Over the objections of the defense attorneys over some of the images, photos of the injuries suffered by Dr. William Petit Jr. on the day of the Cheshire home invasion were shown in court Tuesday. The photos shown here were released during the trial of Steven Hayes.
Petit spend five days at the hospital as a result of the injuries.
He testified Tuesday that he believes he lost 5-7 pints of blood after being beaten with a baseball bat.
Petit was released from the hospital in order to attend the funeral of his family.
During testimony under cross-examination Tuesday, defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan compared what Petit told police in interviews after the crime with what he has said more recently.

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Dr. Petit: I felt "a warm liquid running down my face"

Dr. William Petit Jr. today testified about what occurred at his Cheshire home on July 23, 2007. He awoke with blood running down his face after being beaten with a baseball bat. He was later tied to a pole in his basement.
This police evidence photo shows the pole to which Petit was tied.

Wanting to see the pins dropped

For the second time in two days, the defense in the Joshua Komosarjevsky trial Tuesday objected to the wearing of Petit Family Foundation pins by people who are in the courtroom.

During proceedings Monday, (and while the jury waited outside the courtroom) defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan pointed toward the rows of Petit relatives and supporters and told Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue, “I count 27 Petit Foundation pins on what we call the ‘Petit posse.’” (pin symbol shown at right)

Donovan noted Dr. Petit was wearing one of the pins for the foundation, a charity he started in honor of his lost family. Donovan complained those wearing the pins were sitting only a few feet from the jury box.

Blue did not take action on the pins Monday. State’s Attorney Michael Dearington objected to the term “Petit posse.”
“I’m not the word police,” Blue replied.

Norm Pattis Blog: The Cross-Examination of Dr. Petit

Local attorney Norm Pattis predicts on his blog that today during the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial, "one of the best cross-examiners in New England will face one of the most sympathetic witnesses imaginable," in Dr. William Petit Jr.
Pattis also posits that the cross-examiner, Jeremiah Donovan, will attempt to "humanize the defendant with what will be as sophisticated a psychological defense as any presented since Clarence Darrow's defense of Leopold and Loeb nearly a century ago."

The Pattis blog is part of the Community Media Lab.

In the photo: Dr. William Petit, Jr. walks towards Superior Court with his mother, Barbara Petit and his sister Johanna Chapman for the first day of the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial.  Photo by Peter Casolino

Live daily Komisarjevsky trial coverage

Follow live coverage of the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial. Dr. William Petit Jr. is expected to take the stand today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Komisarjevsky's Lawyers Play The Blame Game

Day One of the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial yielded a broad look at what is likely to be his defense team's strategy for the entire case.

Team Komisarjevsky is out to play the blame game. And so far, the two targets are his partner in crime, Steven Hayes, and the Cheshire Police Department.

The fact that Hayes is being portrayed as by Komisarjevsky's lawyers should come as no surprise. It's the same strategy that Hayes' defense team used in his trial last year, blaming Komisarjevsky for the murder and mayhem that took place inside the home of Dr. William Petit and his family in July 2007.l

But blaming the Cheshire Police is a bit of gamble for Komisarjevsky's lawyers. What they are essentially asking the jury to believe is that if officers had arrived on the scene more quickly or stormed the house, they could have saved the two career criminals from their more base impulses.

Ever since the botched home invasion and murders four years ago, the Cheshire Police have been frequent targets for second guessing. And now that second guessing will likely be played out once again on a high profile stage as Komisarjevksy's lawyers target the cop who oversaw the department's response to the home on Sorghum Mill Drive that morning, Capt. Robert Vignola.

During cross examination of Cheshire Police Officer Thomas Wright, Defense Attorney Walter Bansley III repeatedly led Wright back to questions about Vignola's command that officers remain outside, rather than storm the house just minutes before it went up in flames, killing Petit's daughters. Hayley and Michaela as well as burning his wife Jennifer's already dead body.

Expect to see Vignola take the witness stand in the coming days, as Komisarjevsky's defenders grasp at every opportunity to keep their client from dying by lethal injection.

But it's hard to imagine even the most fair-minded jury having any sympathy for that kind of strategy.

In opening statements before the jury on Monday, Bansley had Komisarjevsky telling Hayes, "No one will die by my hand here today." I'm hoping that the attorney was taking a little poetic license with that statement; I don't think that too many career criminals use that kind of flowery language during the commission of a crime.

But even if you believe Komisarjevsky's version of the day's events as portrayed by the defense, what Bansley's opening statement before the jury was missing was exactly what Komisarjevsky did - or could have done - to stop the home invasion from escalating into something deadly.

In this real life drama, the cops caught the bad guys, even if they weren't able to say the lives of the Petit women. Law enforcement may have made some mistakes on this particular day, but the people responsible for deaths of the three women are the focus of this trial and the one held last year.

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The start of the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial

As did the 2010 trial of co-defendent Steven Hayes, the first day of the Cheshire triple homicide trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky drew a massive media presence at the courthouse and a wide social media voice in several venues. Here is a look at some of what was being said as the wheels of justice turned.

Komisarjevsky attorney says Hayes lit the fire

One of the attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky, Walter Bansley III, told jurors Monday that is was co-defendant Steven Hayes who poured the gasoline around the Petit home and ignited the fire in an attempt to hide evidence that the pair had been there.

The house burned and the Petit daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11, died of smoke inhalation.
Hayes was found guilty on 16 counts last year.

The house was later demolished and a memorial garden has been constructed there.

A bank manager's 911 call

While the former manager of the Bank of America was called to the witness stand in the first day of the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, a transcript of the witnesses' call also was submitted into evidence. The evidence was then released by the court. A copy of the transcript of the 911 call is posted here.

The manager described Jennifer Hawke-Petit as being "petrified" as she withdrew $15,000 in an effort to save her family.
Bank Call Transcript State's 6a 9-19

Petit neighbor testifies about Dr. Petit seeking help

 David Simcik, a neighbor of the Petit family, was called to the witness stand on the opening day of the trial Monday. Simcik, who found Dr. William Petit Jr. after Petit left his burning home to find help for his family, called 911.

As did the jury in the trial of Steven Hayes, the jurors Monday heard that 911 call. The call is attached below.

The photos shown are of Simcik's house. The photos were submitted as evidence in the Hayes trial in 2010. Hayes is on Death Row. The photo at bottom show the open door of garage.