Petit Home Invasion Trial Hit With New Mistrial Request

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Lawyers have asked for another mistrial in the death penalty trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky because a supporter of Komisarjevsky's alleged victims approached a juror before court began today.

Komisarjevsky, 31, faces 17 counts in the gruesome home invasion case that Dr. William Petit and his two daughters dead in the smoldering remains of their suburban Connecticut home.

A juror told Judge Jon C. Blue this morning that a Petit family supporter talked to him in the security line last week and said "Thank you for what you're doing" as they entered court.

The juror told Blue that the encounter did not have an impact on his ability to serve or to be impartial, but the defense immediately called for a mistrial.

Blue denied their request, but did issue a warning to courtroom spectators that they could not approach jurors for any reason.

Walter C. Bansley, a defense attorney, said that he did not believe Komisarjevsky could get a fair trial. Bansley called the spectator's actions part of a "pattern of intimidation" by Petit supporters.

It's the third time that Komisarjevsky's legal team has asked the court to declare a mistrial. They made the request last week after the Petit family arose en masse and walked out of court before the coroner gave detailed testimony of the autopsy of Petit's 11-year-old daughter Michaela.

It was the second time that the Petit family left the courtroom together before gruesome testimony began.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan called the move a "stunt" last week and said it was highly prejudicial to his client. The judge rejected the request last week.

Blue also rejected a mistrial request last month when the judge stopped playing Komisarjevsky's recorded and very detailed confession of what happened in the Petit house because a juror appeared to be having trouble handling the gruesome details.

Komisarjevsky and his accomplice broke into the Petit family home in Cheshire, Conn., in the early morning hours of July 23, 2007.

According to prosecutors and testimony in Hayes' trial, they beat Dr. Petit about the head with a baseball bat and tied him up. They raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48. The two daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized. Komisarjevsky also admitted to sexually molesting Michaela Petit.

The house was doused with gasoline, including the girl's beds, and the home was set on fire. Dental records had to be used to identify Hawke-Petit's body. Experts have testified that the death of the young girls was likely agonizing. Pictures of the attractive, smiling family torn apart by this vicious crime have saturated Connecticut media for years.

Hayes was convicted last year for his role in the murders and given the death penalty. He is currently on Connecticut's death row.