Death Penalty in Connecticut Home Invasion Case Brought Family 'Huge Sense of Relief'

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"We were looking at the law, we had to make decisions with the law," juror Diane Keim said, "but the family was in front of us."

It was hard, they said, to try to leave their emotions behind and do what they were legally charged to do. Though they argued at times, going back to the judge more than once for clarification, they were never disrespectful, they said.

"There's almost no way to describe the group dynamics," said juror Joel Zemke, the jury foreman during the guilt or innocence phase. "It's not like anything I've ever experienced. The group has become like a family."

At times, he said, one of the jurors would become overwhelmed and break down in tears. The rest would rally and then get back to work.

"I think there's a really deep spiritual element within this group, that's really what got us through it," he said.

Many involved in the Hayes' trial and sentencing had nothing but effusive praise for Dr. William Petit, who never wavered in his determination to find justice for his family.

"Billy is one of the strongest men I've ever met in my life," Hawke-Renn said.

Petit, who had been severely beaten in the attack on his family, but managed to escape to a neighbor's house, said outside the courthouse Monday that as the verdict was read, "I was crying for loss."

"Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals," he said, breaking down as he spoke. "Hayley had a great future. She was a strong and courageous person, and Jennifer helped so many kids."

And though the grueling Hayes' trial is now over, Petit will be back in the courtroom next year when Hayes' co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, is tried.

It was Komisarjevsky, prosecutors allege, that raped 11-year-old Michaela.

Hayes will join nine other men who currently await execution on Connecticut's death row, which is housed in the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.

The last inmate to be executed in Connecticut was serial killer Michael Ross in 2005.

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