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Jury weighs life-or-death fate of convicted Connecticut murderer

From Brian Vitagliano, CNN
updated 5:45 PM EST, Mon December 5, 2011
Beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, a jury will decide whether to sentence Joshua Komisarjevsky to death or to life in prison.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, a jury will decide whether to sentence Joshua Komisarjevsky to death or to life in prison.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jury deliberations are set to resume Tuesday morning
  • Joshua Komisarjevsky was convicted of 17 charges, including three counts of murder
  • The prosecution describes his crimes as heinous and says the death penalty is appropriate
  • Komisarjevsky, who has a mood disorder, poses no danger while in prison, the defense says

New Haven, Connecticut (CNN) -- Jurors deciding whether to sentence a man convicted of murdering a Connecticut mother and two daughters to life in prison or to death are set to resume deliberations on Tuesday.

The five men and seven women on the jury began deliberating on Monday, but ended the day without a decision.

Joshua Komisarjevsky was convicted in October of 17 charges, including three counts of murder, for the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.

Komisarjevsky was also convicted on four counts of kidnapping and charges of burglary, arson and assault in connection with the deadly home invasion.

On Friday, in a last-ditch attempt to spare his client's life, a lawyer for Komisarjevsky described him as "damaged" and suffering from a mood disorder.

Steven Hayes, the first defendant to stand trial in the case, was sentenced to death in December 2010 after a jury convicted him of 16 of 17 charges.

Prosecutors had argued 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.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington described the ordeal as hours of "terror that no person should endure." He also contrasted the defense's discussion of Komisarjevsky's family history with the status of William Petit's family.

"When I looked at the Komisarjevsky family photos, I realized that Dr. Petit doesn't have any family photos anymore, because they were burned," Dearington said.

He described what he called the heinous nature of the crime, insisting that a troubled past couldn't justify Komisarjevsky's actions.

"How many people do you have to kill before the death penalty is appropriate?" he asked.

Throughout the trial, defense lawyer Walter Bansley insisted that Komisarjevsky "wasn't involved in the killings to the extent that Mr. Hayes was."

He then recapped what he described as Komisarjevsky's sordid family history and ongoing battle with his personal demons. His client, Bansley said, was a "dark kid" who later got caught up in a life of crime, especially burglaries.

"Joshua was a damaged young man ... and he remains that way to this day," the attorney said.

Komisarjevsky was then quoted from a letter to his mother, saying he was sorry "for not being the boy you wanted me to be" and "a loser." Bansley insisted his client poses no danger as long as he is in prison, where he creates art and studies Latin.

"Josh is not a future danger to anyone, and you really shouldn't consider killing him," Bansley said. "There is no reason to kill him."

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