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Jury selection for Joshua Komisarjevsky, the second man accused of murdering three women in their Cheshire home more than three years ago, has been postponed until March 14.
The selection process was supposed to begin on Feb. 22, but is being delayed as Komisarjevsky's defense team has filed a litany of pre-trial motions that will be heard in the coming weeks. The defense team is seeking to remove Judge Jon Blue, who presided over the Steven Hayes trial last year, from the case. Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky were arrested on July 23, 2007 fleeing the Petit family home. Hayes stood trial first and was sentenced to death last year. Komisarjevsky's lawyers claim that Blue showed a "lack of objectivity and unsuitable temperament" during the Hayes' trial and they feel their client would not get a fair trial if Blue is presiding.
"Just as the law recognizes that there are certain members of the community unsuited to sit as jurors in Mr. Komisarjevsky's case, so too this is not the correct case for Judge Blue," the motion states. "In order to facilitate Mr. Komisarjevsky receiving a fair trial, one that will not be called into question at a later date, Judge Blue must be disqualified from presiding further and a new judge assigned."
On Feb. 15, Judge Brian T. Fischer will hear arguments about the motion. If Blue is retained, then he will hear the remaining arguments from Komisarjevsky's lawyers.
"In the hypothetical event that the motion is granted, the case will be reassigned," Blue wrote in a document Feb. 7. "In the hypothetical event that the motion is denied, I will retain jurisdiction of the case and proceed to hear the remaining motions."
Those include the dismissal of the six capital murder charges against Komisarjevsky. Hayes was found guilty of these charges for murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11. Hayes strangled Hawke-Petit and the house was burned down while the two girls were tied to their beds. Both died from smoke inhalation. However, Komisarjevsky's lawyers argue that it was Hayes who lit the fire, not their client, therefore the charges should be dismissed.
"The State possesses neither admissible or credible evidence indicating that (Komisarjevsky) poured any gasoline or, more significantly, ignited the fire that resulted in the Petit daughters' senseless deaths," a motion reads. "Whatever his misplaced motivations and intentions, (Komisarjevsky) never intended anyone to die, or to be party to any deaths."
Another motion makes the request to "alternate the parties seating" during jury selection, trial, and any future phases. As an "unwritten rule," the state sits closest to the jury, directly across from the witness stand, which Komisarjevsky's lawyers argue is an "obvious advantage" hence why the state never suggests anything different.
"Mr. Komisarjevsky seeks to sit not only closest to the jury box, but also directly across from the witness stand so as to permit an unimpeded, unobstructed and uncluttered face-to-face confrontation with the witnesses against him," the motion states.
During the Hayes trial, Blue allowed electronic devices in the courtroom, so long as they were not disruptive. This led to many members of the media using the social networking Web site Twitter to send out realtime messages during the trial. Komisarjevsky's lawyers aim to stifle that access with a motion filed this week that seeks to bar electronic devices from the courtroom. They suggest using another part of the courthouse to provide a closed circuit live feed of the proceedings to reporters wishing to ‘tweet,’ as to not be a distraction to the jury.
The lawyers filed another motion seeking to sequester all witnesses for the duration of the trial and any future penalty phase and to have the court reporter record all proceedings, such as in the judge's chambers, not just those inside the courtroom. Additionally, a motion was filed to prohibit the wearing of pins, buttons, or other items associated with the Petit family or the Petit Family Foundation.
They also seek to change how seats are reserved in the courtroom. During the Hayes' trial, there were rows of seats reserved for the Dr. William Petit and his family behind the prosecution table. Behind the defense table, there were rows of seats reserved for select media members. They propose one row of reserved seating for the Petit family and another for Komisarjevsky's family.
Lastly, Komisarjevsky's lawyers seek a change of venue out of the New Haven Judicial District to ensure he receives a fair trial. They suggest moving the trial to the Stamford/Norwalk district based on the "unprecedented, prejudicial publicity surrounding this case." They believe that location is the most neutral of all the sites in Connecticut.
The first set of motions will be heard on Feb. 15.