The third week of testimony in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted murderer Steven Hayes kicked off with a bizarre revelation that an amorous alternate juror could have had serious implications for the case.
Judge Jon Blue revealed to the courtroom this morning that the sole remaining alternate juror attempted Friday to pass a note to one of the court marshals that read "Sunday 5pm. Side Street Grill. Can we?"
The note was apparently intended to elicit a romantic affair. The judge called it a matter of "spectacular" and "poor" judgment and further said it was "goddamn dumb thing to do," all the more so because several alternate jurors had already been dismissed leaving an extremely thin jury pool.
If there were any complications to one of the sitting jurors, Blue said today, the entire trial could have been thrown into question.
Hayes was convicted last month on 16 felony counts for his role in the July 2007 Cheshire, Conn., home invasion that left Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela,11, dead.
The embarrassed juror was questioned in open court about the note and flushed red, hiding her head in her hands.
"I have embarrassed myself," she said.
Blue eventually ruled that she should not be dismissed as an alternate juror, because the situation "did not affect her impartiality" and they needed her on the panel.
The jury today was read a letter from Hayes to his only son, Steven Jr., dated 2005 in which the elder Hayes admitted to being a drug addict and apologized for being a bad father.
"So you see bad drugs and my using cost me everything," wrote. "It is cunning, baffling and powerful."
Hayes ended his letter, "Steven, I love you and hope to one day have the chance to make it up to you."
Though prosecutors have pushed hard for the death penalty, Hayes' defense team has called a string of witnesses over two weeks in an attempt to bolster their claim that Hayes was merely a klutzy burglar who followed the whim of co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky.
Komisarjevsky, 30, is scheduled to stand trial early next year.
Last week jurors were read a letter from Hayes' younger brother, in which he claimed Hayes tortured him, burning him on the stove on one point and at another time holding a gun to his head.
"Steven is what Steven is because he is a coward," Matthew Hayes wrote in the letter, which was read by a clerk. "As family of this monster we all have to live with this nightmare."
Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Goldsmith, however, told the jury Thursday that it was Komisarjevsky who came up with the idea to rob a house in well-to-do Cheshire. Hayes, he said, didn't know ahead of time that the home invasion would involve rape, murder and a fire to destroy the evidence.
Komisarjevsky, Goldsmith testified, told Hayes during the invasion that he'd already gotten DNA on one of the girls so they'd have to kill them both and urged Hayes to get his hands dirty.
Goldsmith's testimony revealed Hayes had sex with Hawke-Petit after he strangled her and that Komisarjevsky told Hayes that Dr. William Petit -- the sole survivor of the home invasion -- had died. Petit had been bound and badly beaten, but managed to escape to a neighbor's house and call for help.
When Hayes worried about the DNA evidence that would be left at the scene, Komisarjevsky allegedly shot back, "fire kills everything," Goldsmith testified.
Defense witnesses have accounted for the vast majority of the jury's time in the sentencing phase, now in its second week. The prosecution rested the first day after calling a clerk to read a list of Hayes' convictions.