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Komisarjevsky To Plead Guilty If Spared Death, Lawyers Say

March 17, 2011 by Josh Morgan

Lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky filed a motion urging the court to accept their client's offer to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of release.
The motion filed at the end of last week aims to keep Komisarjevsky off Death Row by pointing the finger at Steven Hayes, his fellow co-defendant who was sentenced to death last year. During the Hayes trial, his attorneys painted Komisarjevsky as the mastermind of the home invasion that left Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11, dead. However, Komisarjevsky's lawyers argue that it was Hayes who killed the family and they included portions of statements their client gave to police shortly after his arrest in July 2007.
"Joshua Komisarjevsky's participation in these crimes is appreciably different than Hayes's," the motion reads. "For instance, none of the victims died at Mr. Komisarjevsky's hand, nor did Mr. Komisarjevsky ever intend for anyone to die or knowingly act in a way to intentionally bring about the victims' deaths."
Hayes admitted to raping and strangling Hawke-Petit during his own trial, where the state also tried to prove he started the fire that resulted in the deaths of the two Petit children. Security footage showed Hayes purchasing gasoline in Cheshire the morning of the crimes, but he was acquitted of the arson charge because the jury did not know for sure who lit the match that started the fire. This is not the first time Komisarjevsky has made this offer, as it has been ongoing since 2007, but the State "steadfastly" refuses each time, his lawyers said. Hayes also made a similar plea offer before his trial, but was rebuffed by the prosecution.
"It is undisputed that Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky entered into a joint venture to conduct a home invasion that resulted in, among other things, the heartrending deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters," the motion reads. "Yet, just like Mr. Komisarjevsky and Hayes were and are very different people, so too was their respective conduct in the event surround this tragedy is different."
His lawyers said that the only issue surrounding this case is if he will die in prison at the end of his natural life or if the State will execute him. Nothing in the motion is an attempt to "minimize or excuse" Komisarjevsky's behavior, his lawyers state, but it is intended to provide the court with facts.
In the lengthy motion, they describe Komisarjevsky as a person who was working 70-80 hours a week as a contractor and was supervising small crews; fought for and was awarded custody of his daughter because of the mother's apparent drug use; and was leading a Cocaine Anonymous support group. They also claimed that financial pressures were mounting and the two men decided to commit burglaries as a way to earn money.
Komisarjevsky's lawyers explain in the motion that their client prided himself on breaking into homes and leaving without the homeowners knowing he was there. He would shy away from confrontation, they claim, whereas Hayes was a smash and grab criminal who was spontaneous and impulsive. Komisarjevsky's willingness to conduct a home invasion does not mean he had a willingness to kill a family, his attorneys state. The two men broke into a few Cheshire homes the night before the deadly home invasion, but "never obtained enough to satisfy Hayes," Komisarjevsky's attorneys asserted. As Komisarjevsky waited in the Stop & Shop parking lot to meet a contractor for payment, he noticed Hawke-Petit and Michaela enter the store. As they left, he took note of their car, which he believed to be very nice, and followed them home and left. The next day, the two men decided to break into the Petit home.
Hayes said very little in his post-arrest comments to police, other than stating repeatedly that "things got out of hand." However, Komisarjevsky spent hours talking to police and allowed them to tape record the conversation. During the conversation, his lawyers state, Komisarjevsky tells police of Hayes' plan to buy gasoline and burn down the house as a way to remove DNA evidence that could have been left behind. Hayes said they had to kill the family since they knew his name and any trace of DNA could land them back in jail, Komisarjevsky's lawyer claim.
"That was not in, that was not the plan. I'm not killing anyone. You know, that's it, that's not how it's going down. Like, we were here simply for the money, get in and get out," Komisarjevsky allegedly told the police.
After Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdraw $15,000, Komisarjevsky reached for the money but Hayes pulled the envelopes away. The two men then discussed what would occur next in the dining room, according to statements Komisarjevsky gave police.
"(Hayes) says matter of factly, okay, you, you ready, we gotta, we gotta kill them and burn the house down," Komisarjevsky allegedly told police. "I'm like, I'm not killing anyone, there's no way. They've done everything, don't know who we are, they can't recognize us."
He goes on to explain that there was a back and forth, and Hayes offered to kill Hayley and Michaela if Komisarjevsky killed Hawke-Petit.
"That's not going to happen," Komisarjevsky said he told Hayes, according to the police statement.
Komisarjevsky then states Hayes said he would kill all three women and tried to psyche himself up for the moment. Hayes went into the room where Hawke-Petit was tied up and spent 15 minutes with her, Komisarjevsky told police, and then he heard rumbling in the basement and the sound of the door opening to the outside of the house. When Komisarjevsky went to check the basement, he saw Hawke-Petit dead on the floor, he allegedly told police. After realizing Dr. William Petit had escaped from the home, the two men were going "back and forth with our heads chopped off" Komisarjevsky reportedly stated.
He then looked for the car keys and saw Hayes pouring gasoline in the house. Hayes, according to statements Komisarjevsky gave to police, then went upstairs with two bottles of gas, which he emptied in the halls. Komisarjevsky says he closed the bedroom doors while the girls were tied to their beds and said there was no gasoline in their bedrooms.
"I was like, you can't seriously be contemplating burning these, these two girls alive. That's unconscionable. It is unreal. It's really unreal," he told police.
He explained that he closed the doors because there was no reason for them to die and his lawyers said he wanted to "buy time" for Hayley and Michaela, but he did not attempt to untie them. When Komisarjevsky fled the home, he believed Hayes was right behind him, but he was not. Hayes, according to Komisarjevsky, ran back upstairs and he witnessed him discard another gasoline container. Komisarjevsky was screaming "we gotta get out of here, this is madness" and Hayes lit a match and ran to the car. Komisarjevsky's lawyers state that their client wore gloves for the duration of the crime and only removed them after being apprehended by police. There was no trace of gasoline on the gloves, his attorneys claim in the motion.
"Mr. Komisarjevsky is clearly criminally culpable for the crimes for which he should be imprisoned for the remainder of his natural life without the possibility of release," the motion states. "In view of the available evidence, however, Mr. Komisarjevsky should not be sentenced to death."
Jury selection for the Komisarjevsky trial in New Haven Superior Court began yesterday morning.


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