Jurors hear final pleas in deadly Connecticut home invasion trial

Story highlights

  • NEW: The judge begins running the jury through the 17 charges facing Komisarjevsky
  • NEW: His attorney insists he didn't intend to kill, blaming a co-conspirator
  • He's accused of being part of a plan that left a Conn. woman and her two daughters dead
  • Komisarjevsky's confession was played in court on Monday
Jurors heard lawyers' final pleas Tuesday in the case of Joshua Komisarjevsky, with a prosecutor casting him as the mastermind behind a vicious 2007 home invasion that ripped apart a Connecticut family while the defense insisted "he did not want anyone to die."
It was their last chance after a trial that lasted just over three weeks, during which jurors heard emotional testimony detailing the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters -- 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.
After closing arguments wrapped up, Judge Jon Blue started walking jurors through the 17 charges facing Komisarjevsky, 31, including three counts of murder, four counts of kidnapping, burglary, arson and assault. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.
The judge got through 45 of 48 pages detailing the charges late Tuesday afternoon before sending the jury home. By then, they technically had not started deliberating Komisarjevsky's fate, though that is expected to happen Wednesday.
Steven Hayes, the first defendant to stand trial, was sentenced to death in December 2010 after a jury convicted him on 16 of 17 charges.
As closing arguments began Tuesday, prosecutor Gary Nicholson told jurors, "Once Komisarjevsky and Hayes completed their plan, where there was a family, there were three corpses."
Prosecutors allege that Hayes and Komisarjevsky went into the Petit home, beat and tied up Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, molested one of their daughters, and set the house on fire before attempting to flee.
The two daughters, who were both tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation. William Petit managed to escape.
Before assaulting and killing Hawke-Petit, Hayes forced her to go to a bank and withdraw $15,000 from an account after finding evidence the account held between $20,000 and $30,000, authorities said.
Nicholson recounted for jurors Tuesday the ways in which Komisarjevsky aided Hayes during the crime, including driving him to the Petit home, helping him beat William Petit and helping him restrain other family members.
"Make no mistake about it, this intrusion into the Petit home was Mr. Komisarjevsky's idea," Nicholson said.
Defense lawyer Jeremiah Donovan stressed to jurors that his client didn't enter the Cheshire home with a lethal weapon. Komisarjevsky, in his view, didn't kill William Petit when he had the chance, and he closed doors to the girls' room to buy them time to survive the fire.
Komisarjevsky was contrasted with Hayes, whom Donovan claimed strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, then lit the fatal fire.
"He did not intend that anyone should die," said Donovan.
On Monday, a 90-minute tape of Komisarjevsky's police confession was played for jurors. He told authorities he followed Hawke-Petit and her youngest daughter home after seeing them in a shopping center parking lot. He said he started thinking the Petit home was "very nice."
Komisarjevsky said in the confession he was beating William Petit with a baseball bat when, "He let out this unearthly scream. I kept hitting him until he finally backed up into a corner of the couch ... He quieted down and was just staring at me with open eyes, just sheer confusion."
But he also denied killing anyone, saying, "(Hayes) pulled me to the side (and said) 'We gotta kill them and burn the house down.' I'm like, 'I'm not killing anyone, there's no way. We have the money. There's not a problem.'"
William Petit addressed the press after Tuesday's courtroom drama ended, admitting that he was bothered by the defense's strategy -- including its claim that his escape from the house may have precipitated the chain of events that led to the three deaths, or that things may not have unfolded as they did if Hawke-Petit had acted differently.