Hayes awaits official sentencing

| 11/22/10 11:00pm

The defense team for Steven Hayes who was convicted of murdering Hayley Petit and her mother and sister in 2007, and who is expected to be sentenced to death for the crime has asked New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue to either grant Hayes a new trial or sentence him to life in prison without parole, The Middletown Press reported Friday. Hayes's lawyers have cited extensive media coverage and the political nature of the trial as factors that could have biased members of the jury against Hayes.

Hayley Petit the daughter of William Petit '78, who survived the attack would have matriculated with the Class of 2011.

After deliberating for three days, on Oct. 5 the jury in Hayes's trial convicted him of all six capital crimes and 10 of the 11 other crimes with which he was charged, The Dartmouth previously reported. On Nov. 8, the jurors recommended the death penalty, according to NBC Connecticut.

In the state of Connecticut, only one person has been executed since 1960, according to The New York Times.

After the jurors proposed a death sentence, Thomas Ullmann, one of Hayes's attorneys, requested that his client's official sentencing be delayed, NBC Connecticut reported. Ullmann said the widespread media coverage of the trial affected the jury's decision.

In the request for a delay in sentencing, Hayes's defense team argued that the more than 145,000 "tweets" about the case posted on Twitter affected the jurors' opinions about Hayes, FOX News reported.

Hayes's lawyers also argued that this year's campaigns for state governor and U.S. senator from Connecticut affected the decision, as the legitimacy of the death penalty was a major campaign issue, the Associated Press reported.

The jurors sentenced Hayes to death on the same day that Dannel Malloy whose platform was based heavily on his opposition to the death penalty won the Connecticut governor's race, The Dartmouth previously reported.

According to Hayes's lawyers, the political nature of the case "may very well have created or caused the result of the jury's verdicts [as] the product of passion and prejudice," the AP reported.

Blue rejected the request, maintaining Dec. 2 as the date for official sentencing, The Washington Post reported.

Although Hayes was not granted a delay in sentencing, his defense team continues to use the issue of media bias to promote a reversal of the death sentence proposed by the jury, according to the AP. The team has suggested a sentence of life without parole, as well as the possibility of a new trial altogether.

According to the defense team, previous U.S. Supreme Court cases have indicated that death sentences can be overturned if bias is shown to play a role in the sentencing, the AP reported.

Hayes has previously attempted to kill himself while in prison, The Dartmouth reported previously.

In an effort to make their case, Hayes's defense attorneys have cited emotional statements made by jurors to the media at the conclusion of the trial, The Press reported. Around half of the jurors met with the Petit family after the verdict had been announced, according to Hayes's attorneys.

Other issues with the trial cited by the defense team include forcing jurors to deliberate over a weekend and excusing one juror after he objected to the way prosecutors delivered their case against Hayes, The Press reported.

State Attorney Michael Dearington has dismissed the complaints raised by Hayes's attorneys, referring to them as "a wild goose chase," according to The Press.

Blue also said he had little expectation that any of the complaints would have merit.

"What we have here is a proposal to do some sort of fishing expedition in the hopes something will turn up," Blue said, according to The Press.

Hayes's lawyers have also suggested that Hayes be acquitted of assaulting William Petit. A motion sent to Blue on Nov. 16 said that Joshua Komisarjevsky who will be tried for his involvement in the crime next year actually committed the assault, NBC Connecticut reported.

The psychologically taxing nature of the trial's subject matter and involvement of the death penalty has compelled Connecticut's Judicial Branch to offer counseling services for the jurors, a practice that is rarely implemented, according to the AP.

Because he has the legal right to appeal the decision, Hayes may not be executed for many years, if at all, according to experts cited by The New York Times.