Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lawyers cite mitigating factors in Conn. deaths

A Connecticut man convicted of a deadly home invasion should be spared the death penalty because he was in a "state of intense rage, despair and confusion" during the crimes and is deeply remorseful for what he did, his attorneys said Wednesday.

Steven Hayes was convicted last month of murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in a horrific home invasion in Cheshire in 2007.

His attorneys filed a list of mitigating factors in New Haven Superior Court on Wednesday. The same jury that convicted Hayes must now weigh those factors against aggravating factors cited by prosecutors, including the heinous and cruel nature of the deaths, in deciding whether to sentence Hayes to death or life in prison.

The defense said Hayes fears life more than death and cited his abusive childhood and history of drug addiction. Deliberations are tentatively expected to begin Friday following closing arguments on Thursday.

Defense lawyers have depicted Hayes as a follower, while asserting that his co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was the mastermind who escalated the violence.

"Steven Hayes has responded subsequent to the crime with shame, humiliation, depression, suicidality and empathy for the victims. His response is sharp in contrast to the co-defendant's, who has glorified in writing the exercise of violent criminal power and sexual abuse over the Petit family," defense attorney Tom Ullmann wrote in the court documents filed Wednesday.

Prosecutors say both men are equally responsible. Komisarjevsky will be tried next year.

The defense also noted that Hayes accepted responsibility for his crimes early on and offered to plead guilty before the trial in exchange for a life sentence.

"Steven Hayes has a conscience and is remorseful," Ullmann wrote.

Hayes' attorneys also say his prison conditions in which he is kept isolated 24 hours per day and his guilty feelings "make his life nearly unbearable and worse than any fear or dread of death."

By John Christoffersen, The Associated Press

Source: The Washington Post

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