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Residents Protest Petit Murder Book At Library

October 22, 2009 by John Rook

The Cheshire Public Library’s decision to purchase a new book detailing the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, has garnered an angry response from many residents.
“In The Middle Of The Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Murdered in Cold Blood,” written by Brian McDonald, gives a detailed account of the murders that took place in July of 2007. The book, which was widely released earlier this month, focuses mainly on the version of events according to one of the suspects in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, who, along with Steven Hayes, is charged with the killings.
McDonald was able to converse with Komisarjevsky through a number of letters over a period of a few months, and even visited the suspect in prison to obtain his version of the crimes.
The book has generated a backlash among many in town, who have called for a boycott and signed a petition asking that all shun the book.
However, Ramona Harten, director of the Cheshire Public Library, decided to purchase the book and make it available to residents. Harten stated that, despite what she described as a “very emotional” and negative reaction to the idea of the book, she felt it was her professional obligation to offer the book at the library.
“Our job is to let the readers decide,” said Harten. “There are 100,000 books in our collection. Something is always going to offend someone.”
Harten stated that the first she had heard of the book was when a member of the media asked her about it and then showed her a copy. “Before that, I had never even seen the book,” admitted Harten. After a lengthy conversation with library staff, where many people expressed what she described as “very strong opinions” about the book and its subject, the decision was made to purchase.
“We realized that our strong opinions were our own and we had to be professional,” said Harten.
Harten also stated that she had already received requests from residents who were looking to read the book and felt that it would have been worse had the library decided against the purchase.
“There is the danger of a slippery slope,” said Harten. “There actually have been cases like this where government suppression has been claimed.”
However, that decision has angered many in Cheshire and, on Monday night, before a scheduled meeting of the Library Board, dozens of residents turned out to protest.
“It was a very unfortunate and unwarranted decision,” said Marilyn Bartoli, a friend of the Petits, who has been a vocal supporter of revamping the state’s three strikes law. “It showed an unfortunate lack of regard for the people in this town. It is very disturbing to me on so many levels.”
Bartoli stated that she was disheartened that Harten had decided to purchase the book, because “raw emotions” remain in regard to the crimes, and she suggested that, if the book were to have been made available to residents, it should only have been made so after the trial of the two alleged killers had concluded.
“I can’t imagine one of Michaela’s (Petit) friends walking in and seeing that book there,” said Bartoli. “Ramona is a smart woman. She had to know how controversial this book would be and how hurtful it would be as well.”
Dr. William Petit, who survived the attack on his family, has come out and publicly criticized the book, suggesting that, since a gag order had been placed on everyone involved with the case, McDonald’s communication with Komisarjevsky was, in fact, illegal and that, as such, the book was “illegally obtained.”
“This (book) allows this animal to give his side of the story without cross-examination or forensics, and then causes the other side of the defense to whine that they cannot get a fair trial,” stated Petit, in a widely circulated e-mail that asked residents to boycott the book. “The author, Brian McDonald, acts like he did nothing wrong: it was only his job to write a book, no matter who it hurts.”
Bartoli suggested that Harten’s decision to offer the publication paid little respect to Petit himself, whom she described as still being a “big part of the Cheshire community.”
“He is a taxpayer here and he still has very strong ties,” she stated. “Where does his emotions fall into this?”
Despite the vocal opposition to her decision, Harten stated that, on Tuesday, she received numerous messages of support from individuals who offered their view that she had done the right thing. “This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to receive phone calls and messages in support of the decision,” she said. “I have received nothing but positive feedback today.”
Tonight, at Town Hall at 7 p.m., the Library Board will meet once again to discuss this issue and members of the public will be given the opportunity to express their views. Bartoli stated that it was her intention, and the intention of everyone protesting the decision, to try and get Harten to change her mind.
“We want to try and get the book off the shelves,” said Bartoli. “That is our ultimate goal.”
Harten stated that, while those who protested on Monday night were obviously angry, they also remained civil, and she expected a “respectful” debate tonight.
“Everyone will have a chance to let his or her voice be heard,” she said.


The same person has commented

November 7, 2009 by mlm151, 7 years 19 weeks ago
Comment: 81

The same person has commented on this story about 4 or 5 times. Its obvious because they cant spell, and write the same things over and over. But my question to them is, what kind of person do you have to be to think that this book should be taught at CHS? What kind of person do you have to be to defend the animal who murdered three people and cowrote a book about it? And then to comment on this story numerous times about how bad the teenagers of Cheshire are. It sounds like you're a few french fries short of a happy meal and perhaps you should find something better to do than comment on a family that you "don't care about," read trash with your child, promote trash to the "proud" community of Cheshire, support people who are nothing but trash and waste your time and lack of spelling skills commenting numerous times on this story.

Being Mentally Ill could be Illegal

October 25, 2009 by burban (not verified), 7 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 76

U can try, but can't control the truth, the public, freedoms or the mentally ill. When the public is censored from the truth, as horrible as it may be, the objectionable content must be weighted againt the law. I recall not to long ago how the Proud Cheshirites tried to disrupt Rte. 10 with their bags of candles that gave a vigil like appearence for the petits murders, besides a fund raiser. They didn't care about it being the beginning of the Christmas season or High Holy Holidays. They seemed to only care about what they were doing & being for a good cause. So, why would anyone one speak out about how awful it was to be reminded of these murders? Then they tried to educate me about their purpose, besides bashing me all to hell. Their minds were stuck in a box and couldn't see the overall picture on how these candles paraded along the shoulder/gutter of public roads were a sore reminder and fightening. If Joshua was mentally ill, does he not have the right to tell his truth or Mc Donald the right to write about it? Education is being informed and understanding, but when it disturbs the vast majority or public not just a minority, then there maybe censorship. I don't see this book causes a disturbance of the peace or disorderly conduct. Could the protesters of this book "In the Middle of the Night" be self serving, filled with hate or seeking revenge? Could they only wish to keep Joshua on drugs to silence him, to take away anything of value from him cause he is mentally ill? Well, there r alot among us that suffer from diseases and we r subjected to their weird appearances, speech and way of thinking, but r they with no rights? It's frightening to children and adults to in their presence or subjected to their ideas, yet it is forced upon us to be educated about their disease so we will accept them. Why would anyone's opinion matter that this diseased person is deserving the same quality of life as everyone else? Joshua's punishment is prison for life. With or without this book people were hurt by these murders. Joshua being guilty of contempt of court for communicating his story, doesn't matter to being guilty of murder? I vote to let this informative book be read by the public and for those who wish not to be reminded, not to read it. Ethically is doesn't fit to censor. Their opinion can't stop history or the truth to be told.

Some think they r more important

October 25, 2009 by burban (not verified), 7 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 75

So, u think ur feelings and loyalty to the petite's r more important then the right of a writer, reader, freedom of speech and literature? Communicating the truth from whatever source is legal. This book "In the Middle of the Night" was quite informative, especially that Joshua growup in Cheshire. The Board of Ed has allowed and made other books required reading for high school students in English Lit., which had stronger and grosser details that this book. Fiction or nonfiction it doesn't matter. This book ought to be required reading for CHS, because as much as u may not like ur friends, neighbors or relatives written about, how they lived or died, it the truth, real, knowledge, history and perhaps honest. The PROUD Cheshirites who think they r holier then God, have to be knocked off their high horse and shut up. I personally do not care about how much u loved, knew or fell about the petit's, as u don't care about my life. What I wanted and millions of others is to be informed, seach the truth and read books. McDonal did an OK job, but I was expecting detail on the murders, which he didn't write, but I bet he knows and didn't disclose in this book. Still for all the teens in Cheshire who r smoking cigs, swearing like troupers, having sex using condoms, drinking, doing drugs, stealing from others or business and looking for excitement, this book could very well be a good read, a deterrent and realization that like Joshua they could be heading down the wrong rode. Even if this read saves a teen from this sort of activety, thinking or life style, it is worth the read. So, stop thinking and defending the petits! We all know the horror, ur grief and anger that these murders caused. Go on with ur lives and leave others alone to live theirs'.

Library Book Selection

October 23, 2009 by John Bullock, 7 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 74

I cannot imagine a worse agony than that of a father losing his wife and child. I did not read about it, in any media, at any time, and I will not read the book. I would advise that no one else read about the crime. But the loss, and the pain, are forever, and the initial frenzy of news did not cause that, or change it, nor will a book. There will eventually be a dulling of the pain, a chance to breathe, a plodding continuation of life. To suggest that a book about the deaths, a book that has been requested by some of us, now be suppressed is unacceptable. We trust our libraries to make available a wealth of reading material, a collection that none of us might have in our homes. It will include materials that none of us would want in our homes, but which we accept in a democratic and tolerant community. We will all be better for that tolerance and choice.

Censorship is like murder

October 25, 2009 by burban (not verified), 7 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 77

If u don't like or will be hurt by something, don't do it. I personally have no feeling for the petits, but i do for victims, the law and freedoms. To censor or block the public or the world from knowing someones truth is not right . I read McDonald's book " In the Middle of the Night" and found it very informative and lacking details of the murders. They r many teens in Cheshire that can learn from Joshua's mistakes. Cheshire teens smoke cigs, have sex using cindoms, steal, lie, drink and do drugs. This book should be part of required reading by CHS students. The boe has approve worse and I read these books with my teen and was amazed at the content, language and desciption. Take Mice or Men, The Kite Runner, etc. A true story about CA high school students beating up a black boy, etc. Ethically, more people than a few Cheshirites, neighbors and relative's opinion isn't worth more than the truth, knowledge or history. Let the pubic read what they want. This shouldn't be a communistic society.

needs a reply

November 12, 2009 by Carolyn, 7 years 19 weeks ago
Comment: 84

This book should be required reading to compensate for poor parenting that leads to behavorial problems in teens?

A communistic society would be one in which you concede to the state to raise your children.

People do need truth, knowledge and an accurate account of history. There is real news out there but people are quibbling over being able to read a book focusing on the latest local gossip. The suspects are behind bars, there's no need to be informed until the trial is over and we know the legal outcome which is something that affects everyone through legal precedent. But this book being published before the end of trial is only going to contribute to skewing that truth.

What kind of truth, knowledge and history is going to be imparted to our children by studying the story of a murderer through his own words? Is this a person you expect to be truthful?

Librarian should make a better choice

October 22, 2009 by Caffeinated Writer, 7 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 71

My book has been read by a number of Connecticut residents, yet not all libraries chose to purchase it. It is truly the librarian's choice. That choice should reflect the sentiments of the community, especially in circumstances such as these.

Don't Censorship this book!

October 25, 2009 by burban (not verified), 7 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 78

The public & world have the right to be informed, knowledgable and allowed to read this book. The Cheshire BOE has approved other fiction & nonfiction works for CHS students that have worse content, language and descriptions then "In the Middle of the Night". There r many teens today in Cheshire that smoke cigs, drink, have sex using condoms, steal, lie, cheat, do drugs that could benefit from reading this book. It touches home. Joshua growup in Cheshire, didn't do well in school. How many teens r in Hummerston School for one reason or another? This book should be required reading for all CHS. I vote to allow the people to read what they want and those who dislike the subject matter not be allowed to control Cheshire or CT. The public has the right to live in peace and not to be intiminated. Joshua may be guity of contempt of court for communicating his story to McDonald, but the weight of being guilty of murder or censorship as in a communistic society is doesn't balance the scale. It's not unethical or illegal, wouldn't u say?


November 12, 2009 by Carolyn, 7 years 19 weeks ago
Comment: 83

This is not an issue of censorship.

The issue is not that this book exists; rather, that there is a gag order on the court case. This book might somehow affect the trial and should not have even been published until after the trial - yet it was not only published, but purchased for use at the very library in the very town where the crimes were commited.

The timing of this book going onto the shelves at the library just might affect Petit's case. That's not fair.

I think it is sickening that the author used this story to make money. It is sickening that it might somehow make people sympathetic to at least one perpetrator of a crime.

However, I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech. Just the timing is not right.

Waiting until the trial is over to publish or the library purchase a book is not censorship.

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