Defense attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky, the second defendant in the infamous 2007 Cheshire murders, are fighting their final battles before jury selection begins March 16.
Pre-trial hearings continued Wednesday morning at New Haven County Courthouse, where superior court judge Jon Blue talked to the defense and prosecution about preparations both sides are making for jury selection. In particular, the attorneys discussed a list of witnesses expected to be called, the names of which will be read to potential jurors to identify potential conflicts of interest. Komisarjevsky’s attorneys also complained that because of the intense media coverage surrounding the case since 2007, many witnesses will be reluctant to testify and admit to any association with the defendant.
While Steven Hayes was sentenced to death in December for murders, proceedings to try Komisarjevsky, his co-defendant, began Feb. 15, and the trial is not expected to begin until September.
Komisarjevsky is charged with the July 2007 murders of William Petit’s wife and two daughters at the family’s home in Cheshire, Conn. Petit escaped badly beaten from his home, which was set on fire following the brutal murders.
In the past three weeks, Komisarjevsky’s defense team has suffered several pre-trial setbacks.
First, they failed to disqualify Judge Jon Blue, who presided over the Hayes trial. Blue showed an inappropriate bias in favor of the prosecution, said Jeremiah Donovan, Komisarjevsky’s public defender, at a Feb. 15 hearing.
Superior Court Judge Brian Fischer, who heard the motion, denied the defense’s request.
The defense team next tried to convince Blue that the trial should be moved down Interstate 95 to Stamford, arguing in a motion hearing last Wednesday that the trial should be moved out of New Haven because media coverage of the case has been too intense and negative for unbiased jurors to be found.
But Blue ruled Monday that the trial would nonetheless proceed in New Haven. Blue said he was not convinced that an unbiased jury would be more likely to be impaneled in Stamford than in New Haven.
Other defeats for the defense include Judge Blue’s decision last Tuesday to allow reporters to use Twitter in the courtroom throughout the trial. Komisarjevsky’s defense motioned for all electronic devices to be banned from the courtroom during the trial, arguing that reporters’ use of Twitter was creating a “mob mentality” around the case.
But Blue said he had no authority to establish such a ban.
It is not clear whether the defense will call for another motion hearing before jury selection begins March 16. At the hearing Wednesday morning, Donovan said he might motion for Blue to “reconsider” his decision to allow members and supporters of the Petit family to wear pins in commemoration of the victims, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two teenage daughters Michaela and Hayley.
Referring to them as “the Petit posse,” Donovan said wearers of the pins would distract jurors by improperly appealing to their emotions.
If convicted of the triple homicide, Komisarjevsky could face the death penalty.