Steven Hayes, the first man to stand trial for the killing of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, is in a medically induced coma after he reportedly tried to commit suicide in a Connecticut jail Sunday.
A hospital orderly described the scene as chaotic with "police everywhere." Hayes apparently stockpiled his daily pills and then overdosed.
Hayes is accused of killing Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in Cheshire, Conn., July 23, 2007. Police allege that Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the Petits' home in the early hours, tied up and beat the father, Dr. William Petit Jr., tied up his daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, and sexually assaulted the youngest before setting the house on fire. William Petit survived.
Hayes' attorney last summer called him "suicidal," leaving many people to wonder how a prisoner awaiting trial for Connecticut's most high-profile killing could have overdosed.
His attorney acknowledged in court Monday that Hayes is in the intensive-care unit.
"This particular prisoner is particularly guarded more than anyone in Connecticut state history … attempting to commit suicide while incarcerated is difficult," Tara Knight, a criminal defense attorney, said. "For this prisoner, it really should've been unheard of."
Rich Meehan, a Connecticut criminal defense attorney, said the state Department of Correction has a lot of questions to answer.
"Suicide watch traditionally is one-to-one keeping an eye on the person and watching them take the medication and making sure they take the medication," Meehan said on "Good Morning America" today. "They shake down the cells over there. So he had to store the stuff somewhere. There [are] a lot of questions that have to be answered here."
At issue now is whether Hayes, should he come out of the coma, suffered any cognitive deficiencies that would keep him from standing trial, Meehan said.
"He has to be able to understand the nature of the proceedings against him, know he is a defendant, know what the judge is, know what the lawyer's role is, know he is in the courtroom and more importantly he has to be able to assist his lawyer in his defense," he said. "And if he is unable to do that, Connecticut has a process where he undergoes evaluation by a psychiatric team and reports back to the court."
This could delay a trial that has already taken two weeks to pick four jurors. The new media attention could force the selected jurors back into court to undergo new questioning about what they know.
The jurors could all be dismissed forcing the process to start all over again.
Questioning for the potential jurors could take a couple hours each, Meehan told "GMA" last month, meaning the jury selection alone could last months.
Regardless of how long it takes, William Petit said he is "very glad the proceedings are finally beginning in earnest."