Suspect in Petit Family Murder Seeks Plea to Avoid Death Penalty

Joshua Komisarjevsky is charged in the death of Dr. William Petit's family.

ByABC News
March 15, 2011, 11:21 AM

March 15, 2011— -- A man who faces a possible death penalty when his trial begins Wednesday in the gruesome murder of Dr. William Petit's family is offering to plead guilty if prosecutors will agree to give him life in prison instead.

But prosecutors said that it's not Joshua Komisarjevsky's place to make a plea deal.

Connecticut State Attorney Michael Dearington, who is prosecuting Komisarjevsky, makes it clear that "as a general proposition of law, only prosecutors can negotiate plea arrangements."

Komisarjevsky, 30, is the second person to go on trial for the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. The mother was raped and strangled while the girls, tied to their beds, died in a fire that was allegedly started by the two men in July 2007.

His alleged accomplice Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted of the home invasion and murders last year and sentenced to death. Hayes also offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors insist he have a jury trial.

In a bid to spare Hayes the death penalty, his lawyer claimed that Komisarjevsky was the instigator of the robbery and the violence. Komisarjevsky's lawyer is claiming that Hayes was the main culprit. He also filed a motion asking State Superior Court Judge John C. Blue to consider granting a life sentence without the possibility of parole in exchange for a guilty plea.

Komisarjevsky claims the conditional plea comes despite the "meritorious defenses" he could raise at trial. The court motion endeavors to show that while Komisarjevsky is "guilty of many things, he never intended the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit or her two daughters…"

Komisarjevsky insists that his plea proposition aims to avert more agony for all involved, avoiding "another lengthy, expensive and emotionally charged trial that will undoubtedly cause extreme mental anguish…"

The motion is the latest filed by Komisarjevsky's legal team. Prior to the offer to plead guilty, his lawyers have asked that the defendant be allowed to sit closer to the jury and to limit the number of supporters of the Petit family to sit together in the front row of the courtroom.

Komisarjevsky has also tried to have Blue removed from the case and waved cheerfully to his own family members in court.

Dearington said only, "We anticipate the trial starting as planned on Wednesday."

Dr. Petit, the only member of his family to survive the attack, is expected to testify against Komisarjevsky should the trial go forward.

Prosecutors claim that Komisarjevsky and Hayes followed Hawke-Petit to the family's Cheshire, Conn., home and then forced their way into the house.

First they severely beat Dr. William Petit with a baseball bat before binding his hands and feet. The two then forced Hawke-Petit to drive to a bank in an attempt to rob the family. Security camera footage showed her withdrawing $15,000, and pleading with the teller to help her family.