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Jury selection begins in 2nd deadly home invasion trial

From Brian Vitagliano, CNN
Joshua Komisarjevsky is accused in the slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
Joshua Komisarjevsky is accused in the slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.
  • Joshua Komisarjevsky is charged in a 2007 home invasion that left 3 dead
  • Steven Hayes, 47, has been sentenced to death for his role in the same incident
  • The upcoming murder trial will be in New Haven, a judge rules
  • Komisarjevsky had wanted it moved, citing "unprecedented, prejudicial publicity"

New Haven, Connecticut (CNN) -- Jury selection began Wednesday in the murder trial of a second Connecticut man accused of killing a mother and two daughters during a 2007 home invasion.

It's a process that is expected to take months. The trial for Joshua Komisarjevsky is scheduled to start on September 19 in New Haven.

It's the same place where Steven Hayes, 47, was sentenced to death in December after being convicted on 16 of 17 charges related to the same home invasion.

Prosecutors alleged that Hayes and Komisarjevsky, in July 2007, invaded the Petit home in Cheshire beat and tied up Dr. William Petit, raped and strangled his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, molested one of their daughters, and set their house on fire before attempting to flee.

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On Wednesday, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Jon Blue divided 19 prospective jurors into four groups for questioning through Thursday afternoon. He noted to the jury pool that the case has gotten publicity, but that "just because you've heard of the case doesn't mean you can't serve."

Some prospective jurors, however, were excused after indicating they were unsure if they could put their feelings about the crime aside. One man told the court that he has discussed the case with his family and believes Komisarjevsky is guilty.

"I'm a fair person and I've read a lot about this case and I'm really not sure that I can be unbiased," said another man. Both men were excused.

Komisarjevsky wore gray slacks and a white shirt and tie in court. His hair was closely cropped. His father was also present, sitting in the first row.

Members of the Petit family were also in the courtroom.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys last week asked a court to accept a guilty plea on the condition that their client would be spared the death penalty. The judge has not yet ruled on that request.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers also asked to move the proceedings out of New Haven, singling out the Stamford-Norwalk district to the southwest as a better trial option. They claimed that "the unprecedented, prejudicial publicity surrounding the case" made it nearly impossible to seat an objective jury in New Haven, a court memorandum said.

But Blue disagreed, ruling last month that there were enough impartial potential jurors in the New Haven judicial district, there wasn't a widespread sense that Komisarjevsky had somehow confessed, and that four years -- a considerable amount of time -- will have passed since the incident.

Hayes forced Hawke-Petit, 48, 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 -- 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit, both of whom had been tied to their beds -- died of smoke inhalation. William Petit escaped to a neighbor's home.