No Jurors Chosen First Day in 'Worst' Connecticut Crime

More than two years since three killed in Cheshire, trial starts slowly.

January 19, 2010, 10:45 PM

Jan. 20, 2010— -- No jurors were chosen Tuesday on the first day of jury selection for the trial of what has been called the worst crime in Connecticut's history.

Two men stand accused of murdering Jennifer Hawkes-Petit and her two daughters in Cheshire July 23, 2007. Police allege that Steven 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.

The two men then allegedly drove the girls' mother to the bank, forcing her to withdraw thousands of dollars.

"At that point, the Cheshire Police Department was notified by the bank teller because the woman was able to relay to the bank teller that she was being held captive," police Lt. Jay Markella said.

But the police arrived too late. The alleged robbers had already set the house on fire and Petit and her two daughters were found dead. William Petit survived.

Habitual criminals Komisarjevsky and Hayes were quickly arrested and charged in the crime. Both defendants attempted to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison but prosecutors refused.

"My family got the death penalty and you want to give murderers life?" William Petit said in March. "That is not justice."

To prominent Connecticut defense attorney Rich Meehan, the evidence is stacked against the defendants.

"One thing we know is they were both in the home," Meehan told "Good Morning America" today.

"We know that three women died. We know there was sexual assault."

A possible tactic is the "other dude did it" defense, Meehan said, in which one defendant claims the other actually committed the crime while the first was a passive participant.

"That's a long shot," he said.

Jury Selection Could Take Months

In a case that made headlines across the country, it could take months before lawyers find an impartial jury.

"Jurors in a capital case have to be death qualified," said Meehan, who has no connection to the case. "People who are morally, religiously adamantly opposed to the death penalty cannot serve."

Prospective jurors are also being questioned thoroughly about their knowledge of the case due to its extensive news coverage.

Questioning for the potential jurors could take a couple hours each, Meehan said, meaning the jury selection alone could last months.

Regardless of how long it takes, Petit said he is "very glad the proceedings are finally beginning in earnest."

But for him, the nightmare is not over.

"There [aren't] days I don't wake up and say, 'My God, what am I supposed to do here?' because I don't know every day," Petit said.

After the deaths, a father and his community continue to struggle.

There is a memorial park on the corner where the Petit home once sat. The house is gone, but the memories of what happened that night remain.

Click here to visit the Web site for the Petit Family Foundation.

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