Oct 29, 2010

Testimony Paints Ugly Picture Of Hayes’ Violent Side

Steven Hayes once threatened to kill a Corrections Officer, stating he had nothing to lose since he was already going to be on death row, a retired prison official testified on Monday.

Frederick Levesque testified earlier this week during the penalty phase for Hayes' trial. Hayes has already been found guilty on 16 separate counts, included capitol felony murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole, or execution. Hayes' defense team is trying to portray him as a non-violent offender and “a likeable guy” who was addicted to drugs and couldn't seem to get out of his own way, while, at the same time, endeavoring to paint co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky as the one who escalated the violence during the 2007 home invasion in Cheshire that left three people dead. Levesque testified that Hayes pled guilty to threatening the officer's life and had privileges, such as visitors and recreation time, suspended for 20 days.

The prosecution brought up the incident as a way to show the jury Hayes could be violent and a threat to others, if incarcerated for the rest of his life. Additionally, Levesque theorized that if Hayes did receive life in prison, he would be separated from the rest of the inmates and could have access to certain privileges, such as television, air conditioning, and educational programs.
Hayes was convicted on Oct. 5 for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Dr. William Petit was beaten with a baseball bat but managed to escape the family's home as it erupted into flames. The same jury that found Hayes guilty on 16 of 17 counts now must decide if he lives or dies. The only two outcomes in this penalty phase is life in prison without parole or lethal injection.

Closing arguments are expected in the case Monday morning and the jury could begin weighing the latest testimony as soon as that afternoon.

Prosecutors also brought up an incident from Hayes' past incarcerations, this one from 1986, when he told a corrections official, "I'm going to rip your heart out." He was acquitted of those charges, but charged with creating a disturbance. Hayes has spent most of his adult life in and out of Connecticut prisons for various crimes.

A renowned clinical and forensic psychologist testified on Tuesday that Hayes would not be a risk if he was given a life sentence. Dr. Mark Cunningham said that, based on his prison history, age, and the fact that he received a GED, Hayes would not be violent behind bars. From 1989 to 1999, Hayes received 20 disciplinary tickets while in prison. From 2000 to 2008, he received five. In 1990, Hayes was involved in a fight and, in 1992, an inmate assault, Cunningham testified.

Hayes' defense team also asked Cunningham to complete a violence risk assessment for their client. Cunningham visited Hayes in prison in May for four hours and also reviewed relevant documents. It was his opinion that, if given a life sentence, Hayes wouldn't be violent or a risk to other inmates or prison officials and, just because he committed murder outside of prison, it didn't mean he would be violent inside.

Also testifying was another psychiatrist who interviewed Hayes and spoke about his reported suicide attempts. His testimony included comments that Hayes wanted to "look like a monster" and show no remorse so the jury would sentence him to death. The prosecution tried to cast a shadow of doubt over the suicide attempts, asking experts if they were genuine or an effort to gain leniency from the jury.

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