Steven Hayes smiled as he was sentenced to death by a Connecticut jury today for his role in the deadly 2007 home invasion that killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
Lawyers for Hayes said that their client was "happy with the verdict" and had "got what he wanted."
"The fact of the matter is that a life sentence without the possibility of release is the most brutal punishment," said Thomas Ullmann. "For [Hayes], this is an easy way out."
The jury unanimously found the death penalty the appropriate punishment for Hayes' role in the triple murders. He was convicted of the murders last month, and a separate jury was empaneled to decided whether he should be condemned to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.
The verdict came halfway through day four of deliberation for the jury that spent the whole weekend holed up in a New Haven courtroom discussing the fate of Hayes, 47.
As the verdict was read, members of the Petit family, including Dr. William Petit, held their heads in their hands. While no outburst of emotion was heard, a court marshal offered a box of tissues to the Petit family.
Dr. Petit, the husband and father of the victims, was badly beaten with a bat, but was the only person to survive the attack on his Cheshire, Conn., home.
In an emotional press conference outside the courthouse, Dr. Petit told reporters that he was pleased justice was served.
"We all know that God will be the final arbiter and I think the defendant faces far more serious punishments from the Lord than he can ever face from mankind," he said.
"There were many, many sleepless nights and a lot of worry and agitation and a lot of tears," he said of the trial, which he attended everyday along with other members of his family and his wife's family.
Asked what he was thinking when the death penalty verdict was read, Dr. Petit answered, "I was crying for loss."
"Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals," said Dr. Petit, breaking down as he spoke. "Hayley had a great future. She was a strong and courageous person, and Jennifer helped so many kids."
Dr. Petit said there were days he struggled to get out of bed or get his picture taken on the courthouse steps for the "one hundred thousandth time."
"I didn't want to be here and listen to things that were being said," he said. "Thousands of times I wanted to jump up and scream out."
Of the recent days he spent awaiting the jury's ruling on Hayes' fate, Dr. Petit said he felt "so terrible" that he didn't know if he "wanted to cry or just die."
Dr. Petit also said that he was once offended when reporters asked him if a death penalty would give him closure on his family's brutal murder, saying today that he believes whoever "came up with the concept of closure is an imbecile."
"There is never closure, there is a hole. A hole with jagged edges and over time the edges may smooth out a little bit, but the hole in your heart and the hole in your soul is still there," he said.
Dr. Petit said that he believes the case against Hayes' accused accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, will be a "different case" but is sure the evidence is "just as strong."
"I think it will be just as ugly and just as painful, unfortunately," he said.
As the verdict was read, Hayes, wearing a striped blue and burgundy shirt, sat flanked by two lawyers as he stared directly at the jurors.