Jurors have concluded deliberations for today in the trial of Steven Hayes, who is facing either a death sentence or life in prison for his role in the grisly murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in 2007. They will resume deliberations tomorrow.
Judge Jon Blue ordered the jury into a second day of deliberations to begin at 9 a.m. today and said that he would allow them to work late into the night, but the 12 jurors concluded deliberations by 6 p.m., leaving Hayes waiting for another day to know his fate.
After Friday's deliberations, which lasted approximately five hours and 10 minutes, jurors were split over whether to doom Hayes, who was convicted of the murders last month, to the death penalty or life in jail, according to jury notes released by the court today.
Hayes' attorney Tom Ullman told the jury on Thursday that a sentence of life in prison would be the harshest possible punishment for Hayes, because he is so tormented by his crimes and would be isolated in prison.
"Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty," Ullman said. "It is a fate worse than death."
"If you want to end his misery, put him to death," he added. "If you want him to suffer and carry that burden forever, the guilt, shame and humiliation, sentence him to life without the possibility of release."
The jury's struggle to agree on a sentence for Hayes, 47, came towards the end of their first day of deliberations when they sent a note to Judge Jon Blue.
"What does it mean to unanimously find the existence of a statutory mitigating factor?" the note asked.
After meeting with the judge and resuming deliberations, a second note sought additional clarification on mitigating factors, specifically on mental capacity and "conforming to law."
Mitigating circumstances would allow the jurors to sentence Hayes to life in prison rather than to be executed. The note gave an example in which two jurors indicated that they saw no mitigating circumstances and Hayes should be to put to death.
Hayes sat calmly at the defense table, dressed in black and white checked button-down shirt and gray slacks.
Nearby sat Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the 2007 home invasion at the Petit house in Cheshire, Conn. Petit, who was beaten with a bat and left tied up during the seven hour ordeal, escaped to a neighbor's house to get help. Petit, as he has through the entire trial to convict Hayes and the trial for his sentencing showed no emotion.
Blue summoned the jurors into the courtroom and told them to keep in mind it's early in their deliberations and to keep working towards a consensus. In order for the state to get its death penalty ruling, the jury must find Hayes guilty of several aggravating factors beyond just committing the crime, according to the state.
Those aggravating factors included committing the murders during the commission of third-degree burglary as well as committing the offenses in a "heinous manner, extreme physical or psychological pain above and beyond that which was necessary" and with "grave risk."
Prosecutors have argued that Hayes and his accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the Petits' home and battered the husband, Dr. William Petit, with a bat. Petit escaped to a neighbor's house to call for help.
Death Penalty Jury Split in Steven Hayes Case
Hayes is convicted of raping and choking Hawke-Petit to death, while Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.
The defense has spent more than two weeks calling witnesses that have painted Hayes as a bumbling burglar who got swept up by Komisarjevsky's decision to turn the home invasion from what was meant to be a big money score to a murderous rampage.
Komisarjevsky, 30, is scheduled to stand trial early next year.