Girl, 9, Testifies in Bid to Save Her Dad, Home Invasion Killer Joshua Komisarjevsky, From Death Row

Joshua Komisarjevsky made last-minute plea to prevent daughter's testimony.

ByABC News
November 23, 2011, 2:20 PM

Nov. 23, 2011— -- The 9-year-old daughter of convicted killer Joshua Komisarjevsky testified via videotape today in a bid to save the violent Connecticut home invader from the death penalty.

Jurors in the death penalty phase of Komisarjevsky's trial watched the 20-minute videotape and listened as the girl laughed, and talked about a best friend and how much she loved animals.

She also discussed her father, who she referred to as Josh, not "dad," saying he was a man she used to play with at her grandparents' home. She said he had gone to jail for "something he had done at work."

The girl lived with her grandparents at the time of the 2007 murders. She is not being identified to protect her privacy.

The videotaped testimony was shown over the objection of Komisarjevsky, himself, who addressed the court for the first time during his trial, though his voice was heard previously during a taped confession.

Komisarjevsky, 31, has been convicted of 17 counts including the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, during a brutal invasion of the family's Cheshire, Conn., home in 2007.

The verdict included six aggravating factors including that Komisarjevsky and his accomplice Steven Hayes committed the murders in "an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner." The mother was raped and strangled. The girls were tied to their beds and the house and their beds were splashed with gasoline before the house was set afire.

Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, testified that he was bound and badly beaten separately in the home's basement, but managed to escape.

Hayes has already been sentenced to death and is on Connecticut's death row.

Komisarjevsky's daughter was interviewed by Caroline Burry, a social worker, last weekend, but did not know she was being taped.

Burry took the stand after the videotape was played and testified that if Komisarjevsky was executed it could be "very damaging" to the girl, who is currently living with her maternal aunt. Her name has been changed and it is believed that none of her friends knows about her father's crimes.

The girl's testimony has been a point of contention for weeks as an attorney for the girl's guardian sought to prevent the interview, citing the possible psychological repercussions and a fear that her identity could become known.

But Jeremiah Donovan, one of Komisarjevsky's attorneys, said that showing the videotape was important because it would allow the jurors to see his client as a loving father who, records show, has seen his daughter 55 times during his incarceration -- instead of seeing him as just a cold-blooded killer.

But today, Komisarjevsky went against his own attorney's wishes. He addressed the judge in an attempt to prevent the videotape from being shown to the jury.

Komisarjevsky, who wore a dark suit and tie, read in a low voice from a piece of paper -- a prepared statement that his defense attorneys insisted he prepared on his own.

"Among many other considerations, I have carefully come to the overwhelming opinion that I am not at all comfortable putting my daughter in a position wherein she may feel that she has to explain or justify herself to anyone who perceives her statements to somehow help one of the most hated people in America," Komisarjevsky said.

"She's 9 years old. Had this interview been her decision to make, and she was old enough to understand that decision, that would be one thing. However, that is not the case in this situation. The decision has been made for her," he said.

Komisarjevsky went on to say that his daughter's words had been coached and that her current guardian punishes the girl if she mentions his name.