NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP/1010 WINS/CBS 2) — Jurors considering whether a Connecticut man should get the death penalty for a deadly 2007 Cheshire home invasion asked the judge a question Friday indicating a split among them over factors that could lead to a life sentence.
Steven Hayes was convicted last month of sexually assaulting and strangling Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Authorities say her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze.
The New Haven jury is considering whether to sentence Hayes to death or life in prison.
The assembled media was waiting for the jury’s decision as was at least one anti-death penalty protester who was hoping for a split in the deliberations.
“Trying to reach the souls of two jurors. One isn’t enough, but two might be. Because one person might not be willing to stand up for this position,” Claire Hogenauer told CBS 2′s Lou Young.
The jurors are considering factors on six different counts against Hayes that would lead automatically to a life sentence.
For example, Hayes would get life in prison if jurors found his mental capacity was significantly impaired during the attack. Jurors would need to be unanimous that such a factor exists on all six counts to automatically avoid the death penalty.
If they don’t find automatic mitigating factors, the jurors then weigh other mitigating factors against aggravating factors cited by prosecutors such as the cruel and heinous nature of the deaths.
Jurors had deliberated about four hours after getting the case before they asked Judge Jon Blue what to do if some agreed there were such mitigating factors, but others didn’t. The judge ordered them to keep deliberating.
Dr. Stephen Petit, the only survivor of the Cheshire attack, looked edgy and nervous as he waited for a decision, but was more relaxed as he left the courtroom. Hayes’ brother Matthew was also attending the deliberations — which will resume Saturday.
Hayes’ co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, is scheduled to be tried next year.
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