Judge Blue made a succession of rulings today concerning the upcoming penalty phase of convicted murderer, Joshua Komisarjevsky's trial.
Komisarjevsky is the man who targeted the Petit family for the deadly home invasion in July 2007, initially following Mrs. Petit and her daughters home from an area supermarket on the day of the murders
In addition to being convicted on three capital murder charges for the deaths of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela Petit, Komisarjevsky was also convicted of sexually assaulting eleven year old Michaela Petit who was in the rmarket with her mother when Komisarjevsky began stalking the family.
A surprising decision to move the start date of the penalty phase from this coming Monday to Tuesday was made by Judge Blue, in order to allow more time for attorneys to argue certain motions involved with this essential phase of the trial. After which the jury will decide whether Komisarjevsky will receive a death sentence for the murders or life in prison.
A decision that remains to be made is whether or not Komisarjevsky's prior criminal history should be suppressed within the Penalty phase which is really a trial within a trial. His attorney's are hoping to suppress their clients substantial criminal history of which 45 prior convictions for breaking and entering, Robbery's Larceny's were mentioned during the taped statements he made to Cheshire Police, after his arrest fleeing the Petit murder scene driving the Petit's family car.
There are problems for the defense inherent to either blocking the history or allowing it: - if their clients criminal history becomes admissible, the defense could try to use the fact that he never became violent within his many home break-ins as evidence that Komisarjevsky was "only" a career thief until he went on a home invasion with Steven Hayes. They could try to insist that this lends credence to the theory that accomplice Hayes escalated the "robbery" into multiple murder.
One problem with trying to sell this to the jury is the fact that Komisarjevsky was the one who targeted the family in the first place, alone without Steven Hayes. He was the initiating predator.
Komisarjevsky, the professional criminal known for his elaborate planning and foresight involved with all of his past crimes, wore and brought masks, zip -ties and other restraining devices, a look-alike 9 mm gun (which he gave Hayes the money after spotting the Petit women ) clearly intent on a different type of crime, other than plain house robbery. This crime was the natural evolution of all of his previous and dangerous breaking and entering into homes where lay sleeping or watching TV.
This crime revolved around sexual assault, kidnapping and taking control of an entire house, including two young attractive girls and their attractive mother. This is why he brought along burly Steven Hayes,: Komisarjevsky was 5' 11" and 130 lbs, he had been teased at the halfway house when bragging about the judge calling him a dangerous predator, the man taunting him that " he was weird and 120 LBS SOAKING WET and clearly no ones idea of a threat. Likely, this insult stuck in Komisarjevsky's craw for months.
It is interesting to note that for all of Komisarjevskys bragging at the time of his sentencing hearings he had made a statement feigning indigence over being called an animal by the prosecutor and a predator by the judge. Years later he would once again become loudly indignant over being referred to as an animal this time in an indirect sense when Dr Petit's modest memorial to his family on the date of their murders was published in the Hartford Courant. Through his lawyers Komisarjevsky loudly complained about Petit's reference to the animals that killed my family, actually demanding to officially challenge the memorial, this through yet another motion filed by his Defense Attorney Jeremiah Donovan.. Judge Blue, ever the pragmatist, rejected the request, citing that it was a short memorial in a paper and did not even mention Komisrajevsky's name.
Blue also wisely pointed out that the legal motion concerning the memorial had recieved much more media attention than the actual memorial itself, thereby making moot and vapid the assertion thatthe defense and the defenant touted that the memorial citing the evil that took my family" being" highly prejudicial"
Of course Blue was right, the defense was well aware that their motion would suffice, as the high profile trial was being thoroughly covered by the media. and every motion, no matter how ridiculous were being printed or linked to in the papers and on the internet.. As such they used an inordinate amount of toothless motions in attempts to manipulate the publics view.
Within his taped statements to Police, Komisarjevsky made frequent references to Michaela Petit , sickeningly referring to her by her family nickname "K.K", and describing a moment to the detective where he claims he" locked eyes with her" - This, while the young girl was tied to her bed, undoubtedly terrified .
This maneuver is classic sociopath behavior, inventing a mutual attraction with one's rape victim, trying to turn a sexual assault into something that sounds more mutual.
What I find extremely telling with this admission is that the pillowcases that Komisarjevsky claimed the men put on the heads on the girl's must have been off of Michalea in order for Komisarjevsky to " Lock eyes with her" This means that at that point in time, the idea of the girl i.d ing him was no longer an issue, as he had already decided she as well as the rest of the family were going to die. Even if he continued to wear his mask, his body type and voice were enough for this girl to make an ID to Police especially considering his reputation with the Cheshire Police. As well, Jennifer Petit clearly had to have her pillowcase off in order to be brought downstairs make the phone call that komisarjevsky, the shrewd one in the pair, forced her to make to Dr Petits office claiming he was ill and would not be making his rounds.
Komisarjevsky admitted to lesser acts of sexual assault upon the helpless 11 year old, but forensics showed that he in fact sodomized the girl, a fact that he did not admit to police, nor likely his own attorneys at first. Sociopaths often lie, rather convincingly, to their own lawyers, wanting to appear more likable, less culpable to the person who will be defending them - In this case for his life.
The bottom line is that when he was arrested, Komisarjevsky had in his possession cell phone photos of half naked Michaela Petit and close up photos of the girl's private areas. There were photos of Michaela in various outfits, including a plaid skirt and a white top that resembled a schoolgirl, standard pedophile behavior.The clothing was found cut off of her body. Komisarjevsky had a long history of attraction to, and involvement with, girls much younger than himself. The mother of his child was fifteen when she gave birth. Komisarjevsky was 22 at the time. He knew that he had to tell Police something insofar as how he procured the pictures and he made the assault sound as innocuous as possible, not yet knowing how much if any of his DNA would be found, or even if the girls body was burnt beyond any forensic gathering.
Shown at both men's trials were text messages between the men hours before they met up for the home invasion that clearly showed Komisarjevsky as the leader, the decision maker, in fact he ultimately gave the written text nod to Hayes that yes, the crimes were going to happen. Text messaging between the pair on the night of the home invasion showed clear sexual inferences about the crimes, proving that sexual assault was a discussed factor in the crimes, if not the prime motivator.
A big issue with not suppressing Komisarejvsky's 45 robbery convictions. would be the fact that Komisarjevsky's history was far from that of a standard thief. His pattern and preference was to break into houses when the homeowners were home as opposed to most B and E robbers and thieves who wait until a house is empty in order to avoid possible confrontation with the homeowners. Interviewed acquaintances and friends of Komisarjevsky spoke of the young man bragging about the fact that breaking into houses with no one being home was "too boring" he spoke of" the rush" that he got knowing the residents were often just feet away sleeping, eating or watching TV.It is obvious that he got a sense of great power breaking into another person's private domain, their sanctuary, while they were home.
This is extremely telling insofar as the likelihood of eventual criminal escalation. In fact, the last Judge to sentence Komisarjevsky noted this very point rather emphatically within his sentencing remarks, stating that Komisarjevsky was a dangerous predator that posed a serious risk to the people of Connecticut. He specifically cited his habit of breaking into houses while people were present in the home and Komisarjevsky frequent use of tools like night vision goggles used to stalk his victims before finding a weak entry point in their house. An open window, a door lacking a deadbolt or as in the Petit case, a basement or Bilco door.
Following this reasoning the judge gave Komisarjevsky a 9 year prison term with 6 years of special parole, making a point to say that including the Parole, Komisarjevsky would be" finished with the Department of Corrections by the time he was 36 years of age if he basically towed the line and used his time in prison wisely. Tragically and maddeningly, despite the judge and prosecutor's conscientious sentencing, Joshua Komisarjevsky actually served just over two and a half years in prison, before being transferred to a Hartford halfway house where he met Steven Hayes, his future accomplice in the Petit murders.
Hayes was a middle aged man who had been in and out of the prison system his entire life, mostly in"; Almost all of his small time bungled crimes revolved around a crack habit. Komsarjevsky on the other hand was definitely not an addict, but he was remanded to a halfway house for offenders whose crimes were fueled by addictions.
Komisarjevsky claimed to Police as well as his parent's that he broke into their neighbors homes in order to buy drugs, claiming at various times to be on cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. As there is no evidence of addictions to meth or coke, this was obviously more manipulative behavior by a budding sociopath, using what he knew about Connecticut's judicial system attempting to receive leniency from police and the courts, eventually becoming eligible for recovery - based halfway house residency, a house where 12 step meetings were mandatory work was encouraged and random urine tests insured "compliance" and readiness for the outside world.
This got the offenders out from behind bars sooner and some, like Hayes, couldn't resist their newly found freedom, returned to using drugs while living at the house and failed a urine test. He was sent back to prison only to be paroled 5 months later. Even he was incredulous when the parole board announced that despite his failing a drug test and getting bounced back to prison they were going to give him early release just the same. Komisarjevsky passed every drug test while in prison and as far as he got on Parole.
It is a well known fact among career convicts that inventing a drug habit or exaggerating occasional drug use (such as Komisarjevsky's intermittent marijuana use), will only help them within the Judicial system. Defense attorneys are known to encourage their clients to cite drug use as a motivating factor in their crimes, in efforts to dupe prosecutors and judges into lighter sentences.
On top of all of this, Komisarjevsky's prison time was mostly served in solitary confinement, largely due to his own complaints of harassment by other inmates. His mother, who like his father appears to have been a major enabler of her son's criminal pursuits, then made complaints on Komisarjevsky's behalf that he wasn't getting enough recreation time among other things, which was only a direct result of her son being in protected "solitary", exactly what Komisarjevsky asked for.
After less than three years, he was given early release parole by the Connecticut Parole Board who made their fatal decision, as they did with all parole decisions at the time, without the inmate present (called administrative parole) nor with the benefit of his criminal history in front of them.
They had a singular report of Komisarjevsky's last arrest, and with that alone, Joshua Komisarjevsky was set loose, having bragged at the halfway house that he'd been called a "dangerous predator" by the judge.
On that Judge's mind, when he made that statement, was Komisarjevsky's unusual history of stalking behaviors, watching his victims through night vision goggles and such prior to breaking into their houses. Perched in trees and crouched in bushes, he'd watch his B and E victims, sometimes for hours. This behavior was in effect a pattern of a budding sexual predator. What used to be called Peeping Tomism has since been discovered to be a serious precursor to serial rapists and murderers. The prosecution could easily point out all off this if Komisarjevsky's prior criminal history is admissible.
Several other key decisions were made in today's hearing in New Haven, including the seating of the prosecution and the defense as they make their statements to the jury. The defense made an unusual motion to switch seats with the prosecution, who traditionally sit closest to the jury throughout any trial. Jeremiah Donovan made a request today specifically requesting that when it is the defenses turn to make their statement, that they be seated directly in front of the jury,( this echoing an earlier motion prior to the start of the trial where the defense wanted to sit in front of the jury throughout the trial. )
Also requested at that time was for the yet to be convicted Komisarjevsky to sit in such a position as to "face his accusers" ie lone survivor and victim of his near fatal baseball bat assault, William Petit Jr. a man whose wife and children Komisarjevsky targeted and killed.
The practical reality of the defenses seating request is that they will have to switch seats with the entire prosecution when it is their turn to address the Jury. Judge Blue, no doubt giving a lot of leeway now in order to avoid making any decision the defense can later try to use in an appeal or mistrial request, allowed the unusual seating request. Michael Dearington, the States lead prosecutor, did not object.
Also approved was a motion made by the defense to allow a complete hour for an opening statement at the start of the penalty phase. Prosecutor Dearington appeared to shake his head no, but did not officially object, most likely thinking how over the top it is by standard court practices. However, over the top has been the defining style of this defense from pre-trial motions on. They have been extremely aggressive toward the surviving victim and his family and over zealous with a ridiculous amount of motions, many of which have been nonsensical and clearly designed to harass, manipulate and wear down the surviving victim, his family and the prosecution.
Judge Blue remarked that although an hour was a lengthy amount of time for an opening statement, he would allow it, claiming it just fell within the rule book's parameters.
A key issue that was brought up earlier in the Komisarjevsky trial was a motion by the defense to keep their Penalty Phase witness-list sealed from the public and thus, the media's view. Claiming that exposing their witnesses to possible harassment and/ or media attention could pose danger to the witnesses as well cause the witnesses to pull out of testifying the defense had managed to convince the Judge to seal the list earlier in the first phase of the trial. The issue was to be re-addressed before the start of the penalty phase:
Today, Judge Blue agreed to keep the list redacted for the same reasons that applied before, particularly as some of these out of state witnesses are approaching the date when they are expected to testify. These defense witnesses are undoubtedly character style witnesses for Komisarjevsky, some of whom the defense believes will convince the jury into sparing the convicted Komisarjevsky from the death penalty that the State rarely pursues.
Jeremiah Donovan used the hearing to make yet another motion to remove the death penalty as a possible sentence for his client, citing it's unconstitutionality, this is the exact same motion he made prior to the start of the trial. Judge Blue expectedly rejected the motion, mentioning that he had ruled on this exact same motion once already. The defense stated that they were reiterating the motion in order to make as clear a record as possible for the higher courts and future appeals.