The prosecutors ill advisedly kept their penalty phase presentation to the barest of minimums, closing their entire case,within the first day of presentations. In fact, their entire penalty phase presentation was relegated to one witness who simply listed Komisrajevsky's entire list of criminal convictions and an earlier submitted list of " aggravating factors" that they clearly felt more than supplied the jury and the court with the legal requirements for awarding a death penalty sentence to Komisrajevsky.
Despite being forewarned last week that Komisrajevsky's defense was planning upon an hour long opening statement, which required the approval of Judge Blue due to its lengthiness, the prosecution did not prepare a opening statement of their own. Obviously Michael Dearington believes that the evidence alone speaks for itself and no matter what the deense throws at the jury he need'nt respond in kind even if it is merely to put the facts into an emotional framework that combats the defenses manipulations to the contrary.
Despite shaking his head in apparent disgust, Michael Dearington did not object to the hour long statement.
The prosecution was given a list of the Defenses many witnesses for this penalty phase weeks ago, this was also a major clue as to how long the defenses penalty phase was going to last, with reports in the media as long as a month ago stating that the penalty phase could take up to 3-4 weeks, based upon the defenses witness lists alone among other things.
Overdoing everything has been the defining style of the Komisrajevsky defense: time consumptive, manipulative, laborious and wasteful. However, the State of Connecticut, led by Prosecutor Michael Dearington has a duty to think on their feet, and while I expected Dearington's presentation during this penalty phase to be in keeping with his usual " keep it short and simple" mindset, a defining style of his throughout his career and both the Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky's trials, he really dropped the ball as far as this penalty phase as far as I'm concerned.
The Hayes trial was a bird of an entirely different color, despite the fact that Hayes was an accomplice in the Petit murders and indeed his charges almost identical to his partner in crime Komisrajevsky's.
The big difference here was the fact that Steven Hayes was a man who was physically and emotionally began disintegrating from the moment he was imprisoned for these crimes: Joshua Komisrajevsky had no such disintegration for he has no conscience, and far too much narcissism to allow any thoughts of remorse, regret despair or dictate his outlook or his behavior. Joshua Komisrajevsky is truly soulless.
Hayes, who was convicted on sixteen of seventeen of these counts, now on death row, was no prince by any stretch of the imagination. I truly believe that much of his weight loss and depression had more to do with his treatment at the hands of guards and such than any true guilt or remorse over the murders of the Petit family women and children.
While I am sure he had remorse about the crimes as it related to getting caught and his current predicament, I think his feelings of hopelessness and despair which were evident in a much publicized suicide attempt, revolved around the reality that he was going to spend the rest of his life a pariah, alone in a cell, unable to even enjoy the social network that his old prison days had at least afforded him.
And remember this was a man who had spent more of his adult years in prison than he had outside of prison. Due to the nature of the crimes and the fact that sentencing and parole reforms had been a direct result of those murders, ensured that Hayes and Komisarjevsky were going to spend the rest of their terms in prison protected in solitary confinement, no matter what the verdicts, nor the sentencing rendered for each man.
According to Hayes, early on in his incarceration prior to being moved to another prison, prison guards were overtly hateful toward him - this man who was obviously complicit in the rape of Jennifer Petit and the gasoline fueled burning deaths of her two young daughters. The guards Hayes said were making" his life miserable" purportedly messing with his meals to the point where Hayes would wash every bit of food in water before eating it, leading to a substantial weight loss from the first day of imprisonment.
I saw Steven Hayes several months after his arrest at a probable cause hearing and I believed myself to be in the wrong courtroom, such was his stark change in appearance. Gone was the burly man in the mugshot photos taken the day of his arrest fleeing the Petit murder scene: He was almost thin, his formerly shaved head now bearing tufts of gray hair that stood out in random sprigs and appeared to not touched a comb in ages. He did still have some fight in him however as I recalled him nodding emphatically at the judge as his lawyer Thomas Ullmann complained about the amount of publicity that the crimes were receiving, citing the latest statistics in Blog articles alone to the presiding Judge.
In any event, as the months wore on Steven Hayes received some letters from his brother Matthew who it seems encouraged him to do the right thing for the first time in his life and admit accountability for his actions; He basically told his brother, who had been mostly estranged from him his entire life due to his insistence upon pursuing a life of crime, to plead guilty. Hayes crimes seemed to largely revolve around the continuous pursuit of drugs (crack) and prostitutes, always getting caught by police, basically because
he was a clumsy thief, a disorganized criminal and one that clearly didn't think his crimes out. He simply acted in desperation for money for drugs and got caught as a result.
As his trial neared Steven Hayes decided for whatever reasons that he wished to change his plea to guilty. In a preliminary hearing for his trial Hayes surprised everyone, including his own attorneys apparently and suddenly and quite assuredly tried to plead guilty right then and there. Unfortunately and rather ridiculously, Connecticut law disallowed Steven Hayes from pleading guilty at that particular point in his judicial process, a fact that still amazes and disgusts me. We have so perverted our system that it has become one wherein the very person who has committed multiple murder, rape, kidnapping arson is not allowed to plead guilty in a court of law.
The court and the lawyers won. They worked on Hayes and wore him down, eventually talking him into not changing his plea when the time finally rolled around where he might be allowed to plead guilty by the Connecticut court system. However Hayes was a man still bent on admitting at least the basic truths of the crimes he committed on the night of July 23rd 2007.
As such he greatly binded the hands of his lead attorney Thomas Ullmann, a pugnacious upstart, who loved a fight and seemed intent upon saving the lives of men who took the lives of others, in often brutal and terrifying fashions; In fact he made a career of it. Attorney Ullmann, a man who usually employed any and all of the usual despicable mendacious attorney tactics, was forced to follow the wishes of his client, lest he lose him completely again. And thus, in his opening statement, we were made privy to the likes of the whole mood of the trial to follow, something that undoubtedly made Ullmann extremely uncomfortable and his instincts stymied.
"We will concede much but not all" he said to the Jury in his opening statement. Various local attorneys took note of the usual bull dog Ullmann's unusually docile approach in defending Hayes.
And so he did and with much restraint held back his usually aggressive and standard fare for defense lawyers manipulative flair, a style that Joshua Komisarjevsky's lead attorney appears to have anxiously taken the baton from, in this the spectacle that has become the trial of one Joshua Komisarjevsky.
Komisarjevsky unlike Hayes is in fact the brainchild, the mastermind, and the executioner of the Petit family home invasion, a set of crimes that he not only devised, but carried out with complete and utter precision and an attention to detail that Hayes so obviously lacked. The end result, the murders of Jennifer Hayley and Michaela Petit having been decided the moment he cracked William Petit Jr over the head with a baseball bat so many times that he lost count hitting him "as hard as I could as if chopping wood"
In any event, by choosing to use Ben Komisarjevsky as a witness and a star witness in his sons penalty phase the defense has ultimately only helped the jury to see many of the qualities that Komisarjevsky had since he was a young teen, and how those qualities and behaviors steadily lead to a persistant return to a life of crime and the eventual targeting stalking and rape of Michaela Petit and the murders of three members of the Petit family on July 23rd 2007.
Through their client's father's testimony, which was supposed to provoke compassion for the convicted murderer, the defense inadvertently managed to outline Komisarjevsky's criminal and amoral evolution, his tendencies to pathologically lie, to manipulate, to steal, to stalk, and worse, sexually assault, in this particular testimony it was his own sister that he sexually molested according to Ben Komisrajevsky who claimed we just didn't know what to do"
By listening to the elder Komisrajevsky, we see two Christian based parents completely ill-prepared to deal with a evolving sociopath; Trying to do their best with what they knew, using their Christian faith, something that they themselves had been taught as youths, to continuously, unfailingly and loyally attempt time and again to help their problematic son from turning to evil every chance he had to do right.
The most telling piece of testimony today from Ben Komisarjevsky were the many letters his son would send him from whatever place he'd most recently landed as a result of criminal activity. When he was younger it was a christian based camp in New Hampshire, later it would be prison. The letters his father said would always be filled with apologies about his latest criminal behaviors and promises to change. His father rather sadly related that none of the promises ever came to volition and that hi son always returned to the exact same behaviors that led him into the intuitions that he found himself in.
These letters and moreover the manipulation behind them is classic sociopath behavior. Komisrajevsky knew he had a mark in his father, just as he did with his mother the ever patient martyred Christian mom, refusing as did her Hinda to give up on their son despite the continuous reasons to do just that. Joshua Komisrajevsky was smart enough to know that he needed Ben and Jude Komisarjevsky as they were his only allies in life and as such he used their own Christian Faith to bamboozle them and keep them on the hook, as it were. I know very few parents that would have put up with the behaviors and continuous trouble that Joshua Komisrajevsky got into. Because of faith, the Komisrajevsky's inadvertently enabled Joshua over and over again, through denial and then simple enabling.
Even on the night of the Petit murders we see two enabling parents, complicit via their denial. Their son who was recently paroled from prison, had just had his GPS tracking anklet removed a few days earlier.
The very night that he had it removed Komisarjevsky admitted to Police that he was breaking into Cheshire homes with accomplice Steven Hayes in tow. Hayes says that Komisrajevsky was priming him to see just how easy it would be to pull off a home invasion. An invasion that undoubtedly included sexual assault and if lucky a greater cache of money or stolen goods that would translate into money for the pair. Komisrajevsky resented the child support money he had to pay for his then 5 year old daughter. Despite having a full time job as a roofing worker which was part of his parole agreement, sociopaths like Komisrajevsky believe that they are special and they see regular working men, like his own father as fools working stiffs" something they disdain the very notion of due to their narcissistic vision of themselves and the world.
This outlook fueled much of Joshua Komisrajevsky behaviors from the time he was a young adolescent on, puberty is the atypical age whereupon the behaviors associated with oppositional - defiant disorder begin to rear their ugly head in earnest. This disorder is a well known predictor and precursor to becoming a sociopath and includes such behaviors such as fire setting, stealing, animal cruelty, pathological lying and manipulating and getting into trouble at school and or with the law. At it's core this personality disorder which is not a mental illness has as Its main component is a complete disregard for rules and regulations and the rights of others.