Romantic Note Interrupts Conn. Home Invasion Trial

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP/CBS 2) —Attorneys finished presenting evidence Monday aimed at persuading a jury to spare a Connecticut man the death penalty for killing three people in a deadly home invasion by reminding jurors that he had offered to plead guilty before the trial in exchange for a life sentence.

The defense for Steven Hayes was preparing to rest their case Monday afternoon after finishing with the testimony of a psychiatrist.

Just before they did, the judge refused to dismiss an alternate juror who showed romantic interest in a court marshal. Judge Jon Blue said a “middle school note” the juror attempted to pass to the security officer Friday was “spectacularly poor judgment” but did not affect her impartiality.

A clerk intercepted the note. The juror is the last alternate and Blue acknowledged she was needed.

“Obviously this is embarrassing,” Blue told the juror. “I’m a romantic at heart.”

The juror, who had passed the note on a napkin to another juror late Friday suggesting a date with the court official, apologized and said she would be able to pay attention to evidence.

A defense lawyer sought to have the juror dismissed, calling the note “disturbing” in a case involving a potential death sentence and saying it showed she was not focusing her attention on the evidence. Prosecutors opposed the motion, saying the juror had been paying attention.

The judge dismissed a juror Friday who was overheard making a derogatory comment to another juror.

Hayes was convicted of killing a Cheshire woman and her two daughters in a home invasion in 2007. The jury is weighing whether he should be put to death or receive a life sentence.

Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Goldsmith finished testifying Monday as the final defense witness.

Hayes’ attorneys were closing out their case by having a clerk read letters they had written before the trial offering to have Hayes plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, saying the move would avoid the trauma of a trial. They also introduced a letter Hayes wrote his son Steven in 2005 in which he focused on how his drug addiction ruined his life and had hurt his son.

“Steven, I love you and I hope one day to have a chance to make it up to you,” Hayes wrote.

Prosecutors are expected to call their first rebuttal witness Tuesday.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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