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Through A NY Eye: ‘Cheshire: Waiting for Justice’

Steven Hayes (credit: AP)

Steven Hayes – File / Photo: Connecticut State Police via AP

young Lou Young
A native New Yorker, Lou Young joined CBS 2 in June 1994. He has...
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A blog by Lou Young, CBS 2 HD News

Waiting for justice in a hallway in New Haven Dr.William Petit stood chatting with prosecutor Michael Dearington.  “It will be my legacy,” I overhead Dearington proudly telling the always-composed and dignified Petit.  Both men were smiling, certain that the grim little man at the defense table in the nearby courtroom was soon going to be found guilty of capital murder. 

Steven Hayes, dark-eyed, dim-witted and brutal, is the first of two defendants to face a jury for the Cheshire home invasion of 2007 that wiped out Petit’s family.  Hayes tried to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, but the state of Connecticut, in the person of prosecutor Michael Dearington, would have none of it. 

The Cheshire incident is so horrible, the evidence so compelling, it isn’t even a question about where the deliberations are headed.

“If this case doesn’t justify the death penalty,” a passer-by notes, “then we might as well get rid of it.” 

Even death penalty opponents seem to accept the logic.  No one can imagine another outcome.  If you saw the faces of the jurors as they looked at the evidence you would certainly agree.

The details of the Cheshire crimes are commonplace now, but even journalists who’ve studied the massacre for years can still be shocked by the details.  “My God,” a feature film researcher muttered taking notes last week, sucking in his breath as if physically jolted by what he’d just heard.  He was reacting the sordid, ugly details of11-year-old Michaela Petit’s fate: tied to her bed and photographed by Hayes’s younger co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky.  Then Hayes’ own description of the rape of Jennifer Hawke-Petit to, as he put it, “square things up” between he and his partner.  The evidence indicates the mother may have been killed during the rape.  We look down at our notebooks unable to comprehend that the man seated a few feet away could be capable of such savagery.

The brutal banality of the crimes shock us so repeatedly that time and again we find ourselves turning to look at the sole survivor and wonder how Dr. Willliam Petit has the strength to draw breath.  How?  Since covering this trial I have had nightmares about being unable to protect my family from grinning maniacal killers but I always wake up.  I cannot imagine the place he has been forced to live in.

young1 Through A NY Eye: Cheshire: Waiting for Justice CBS 2 HD News Reporter Lou Young

A native New Yorker, Lou Young joined CBS 2 in June 1994. He has served as a broadcast journalist in the New York market since 1981, working at both WABC-TV (1981-1990) and WNBC-TV (1990-1994). His blog, “Through A New York Eye,” is the longest-running blog on CBSNewYork.com. To send a message to Lou, click here. You can also follow Lou on Twitter.com by clicking here.