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Jury recommends death in Connecticut home invasion case

From Deb Feyerick and Brian Vitagliano, CNN
updated 7:33 PM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
Joshua Komisarjevsky and his accomplice were convicted of murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
Joshua Komisarjevsky and his accomplice were convicted of murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Komisarjevsky's attorneys say that killing their client is wrong
  • Komisarjevsky was convicted in October on six felony charges
  • His accomplice, Steven Hayes, has been sentenced to death
  • "We believe justice has been served," William Petit says

New Haven, Connecticut (CNN) -- A jury recommended Friday that Joshua Komisarjevsky receive the death penalty for his role in a deadly Connecticut home invasion in 2007.

The decision was made after more than five days of deliberations following a six-week penalty phase of a case whose grisly details may have helped slow efforts to abolish capital punishment in Connecticut.

"We believe justice has been served," said William Petit, the sole survivor of a brutal attack that left his wife and two daughters dead in their Cheshire, Connecticut home. "We think society will be a little safer with he and his co-defendant locked up and facing the death penalty."

Flanked by family members, Petit thanked jurors for Friday's decision, acknowledging the public support he says he's received throughout the duration of the trial.

Komisarjevsky family accepts decision
Death sentence in CT home invasion trial
Petit family hopes for speedy execution

Still, Petit said, there's never complete closure when you lose your family.

Judge Jon Blue is expected weigh the jury's recommendation in sentencing Komisarjevsky, who was convicted in October on six capital felony charges. The 12-member jury voted for death by lethal injection on each of the six counts.

Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. January 27.

Blue also instructed jurors not to comment on Friday's decision to avoid jeopardizing the verdict.

"You have done something many people find impossible," said Blue, acknowledging that jurors had been "exposed to profoundly disturbing evidence."

Komisarjevsky, 31, showed little emotion as authorities led him out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

His accomplice, Steven Hayes, the first defendant to stand trial in the case, was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him on 16 of 17 charges last year.

Prosecutors argued that Hayes and Komisarjevsky went into the Petit home, beat and tied up William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, molested one of their daughters and set the house on fire before attempting to flee.

Before assaulting and killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayes forced her to go to a bank and withdraw $15,000 from an account after finding evidence that the account held between $20,000 and $30,000, authorities said.

The two daughters, who were both tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation, while William Petit managed to escape from the basement, where he had been held.

Before the home invasion and murders, Hayes had been charged with third-degree burglary in 2003 and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released only three years later to a halfway house, where he met the man who would later become his accomplice.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys have petitioned for leniency, arguing that their client had no prior history of violence, was abused as a child and had been committed to a mental hospital for depression.

"Its just wrong (for jurors) to give their authorization ... to kill this man," attorney Jeremiah Donovan said. "Appropriate punishment in this case is to confine Joshua in a state prison."

He called Komisarjevsky's family dysfunctional, pointing to his uncle, Chris, who told reporters that he supported the jurors' decision and that Joshua had to take responsibility for his actions.

"The crime was monstrous and beyond anyone's comprehension," he said, offering his apologies to the Petit family.

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