Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheshire Defense Lawyers File Motion For 3-Month Delay, Citing Senator's Remarks

Defense attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky accused a state senator Monday of making a "clarion call for lynching" for the second man charged in the deadly Cheshire home invasion.

In a harshly worded four-page motion, they asked that jury selection be suspended for three months.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers called Sen. Edith Prague's comments "inflammatory" and suggested that "some period during which the senator's remarks may be forgotten should be allowed … so that the senator's call for lynching may slip" from potential jurors' minds.

It was unclear whether Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue would hear the motion Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, our history is blackened by instances of mob violence inflicted upon the unconvicted, almost always by hanging," the motion states. "The senator's choice of lynching as punishment (rather than, say, burning at the stake or facing a firing squad) is a conscious reference to that sad history, giving the views of the would-be Komisarjevsky-lynchers a historical as well as a legislative legitimacy."

Prague, a Democrat from Columbia, said last Wednesday that, after speaking with Dr. William Petit Jr., she had changed her mind and decided to oppose a bill seeking to repeal the death penalty. Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and two daughters, Michaela and Hayley, were killed during a home invasion at their Cheshire home on July 23, 2007.

Hawke-Petit was raped and strangled during the attack. Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were bound to their beds before their deaths. Michaela was also sexually assaulted, according to police and court testimony. Petit, the lone survivor of the attack, was badly beaten but escaped before the house went up in flames.

"I don't care what anybody says,'' Prague said last week. "I want to give this man [Petit] a little ounce of consideration here and that's my reason at this point in time to not support repeal. I have to live with myself. ... I could not for one second cause this family any more stress.''

Prague told CTNewsJunkie, an online political website, that Komisarjevsky should be hung "by his penis from a tree out in the middle of Main Street.''

Komisarjevsky's lawyers called Prague's remarks "reckless" and "undignified," saying last week and in Monday's motion that Prague "could have simply announced her reversal in a more responsible manner without need for an anatomical reference. It is outrageous that an elected official of the senator's stature would publicly advocate for public torture and attempt to subvert the judicial process with such sensational remarks."

When asked about the defense team's criticism of her last week and the request for the three-month trial delay, Prague called the idea of a delay "outrageous."

Komisarjevsky's trial is expected to begin in September. He could face the death penalty if convicted. The first defendant in the case, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year and sentenced to death.

The legislature had passed a bill eliminating the death penalty in 2009, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Her replacement, Dannel P. Malloy, has pledged to sign a repeal bill.

On Monday, lawyers selected the first alternate juror for the trial. The Hamden man is married and teaches biology for the Stratford school system. Twelve regular jurors have already been selected. Five more alternates and three backup alternates still need to be seated for the trial.

By Alaine Griffin,, The Hartford Courant

Source: The Hartford Courant

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