Petit Trial Judge Rejects Change of Venue, Testimony Starts Monday

Joshua Komisarjevsky on trial for worst murder in the state's history.

Sept. 16, 2011— -- A Connecticut judge dismissed a series of last-minute motions today that would have delayed the death-penalty murder trial for Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The stage is now set for Komisarjevsky to face a jury for his alleged role in what has been called the worst homicide in the state's history.

Komisarjevsky, 31, is accused of 17 charges, ranging from murder to abduction and assault.

He and Steven Hayes had offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence instead of facing a death sentence, but the state rejected their offer. Hayes was convicted and sentenced to death last year for his role in the killing. He is on death row.

Second Petit Murder Trial Set to Begin

The crime that has inflamed such passion was the July 23, 2007, home invasion at the home of Dr. William Petit in Cheshire, Conn. Petit was severely beaten and tied up, according to testimony in Hayes' trial.

His wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, was raped and strangled. His two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were tied to their beds. The younger girl was sexually assaulted, and both girls were left bound to their gas-soaked beds as the suspects torched the house.

Hayes' inability to avoid the death penalty has prompted Komisarjevsky's court-appointed legal team to take a more aggressive approach and they had filed a series of contentious motions in recent weeks.

Today's rulings by Judge Jon Blue eliminated the last in a series of those motions, clearing the way for the trial to begin.

The most significant motion was for the trial to be moved out of New Haven where publicity from Hayes' trial and in the run-up to Komisarjevsky's trial has made it impossible to get an unbiased jury, defense attorneys argued.

They asked that the trial be moved to Stamford, Conn., which Blue rejected.

The judge also rejected requests today that the jury be dismissed and replaced by another panel, and that all the newspaper boxes -- which will presumably carry stories about the trial -- be removed from outside the courthouse.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers have also tried to limit the emotional impact of Petit, the only survivor of his alleged crime. In today's motions, they asked the judge to restrict Petit's testimony to what happened during the crime, and that he not be allowed to discuss the charities and other activities in which his wife and children were involved. Blue dismissed the request.

Other motions dismissed in the weeks before the trial included attempts to keep Petit out of the courtroom during testimony on the grounds that he is a witness who will have to testify, and that other Petit family members be banned from wearing pins memorializing the victims.

Petit attended every day of Hayes' trial and sentencing, and held an emotional news conference when that case was concluded.

"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 at the time.

Petit said he dreaded the prospect of sitting through all the gruesome details of what happened to his family again.

"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."

On some days, Petit said, he felt "so terrible" that he didn't know if he "wanted to cry or just die."

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