NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of a second Connecticut man accused of killing a mother and her two daughters in a brutal home invasion.
WCBS 880′s Fran Schneidau reports selecting the jury could take months
Judge Jon Blue told attorneys Wednesday before prospective jurors were brought into New Haven Superior Court that any who cry or panic when they learn the graphic nature of the case would be excused immediately.
Authorities say Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, in their Cheshire home in 2007.
Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls, who were tied to their beds and died of smoke inhalation after the house was set on fire.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were both paroled burglars who blamed each other for escalating the attack. Prosecutors say both were equally responsible.
After numerous people were excused Wednesday for financial hardship or for knowing someone involved in the case, prosecutors and defense attorneys began questioning prospective jurors about their views on the case
“I’m really not sure I could be unbiased,” the first man interviewed said. “I have some pretty strong feelings about what happened in this case.”
He was excused along with three more potential jurors. One woman said she thought Komisarjevsky was guilty and when a man was asked about Komisarjevsky’s presumption of innocence, he said, “I don’t know if I can honestly say yes to that.”
Blue said he or another judge would later consider a defense bid for Komisarjevsky to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Hayes was sentenced to death last year.
A recent poll by the defense in the case shows an overwhelming number of people in Connecticut are aware of the Cheshire home invasion murders and most believe defendant Komisarjevsky is guilty of the crimes.
Selecting a jury is expected to take several months and no jurors were selected on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the trial judge has sealed the list of potential witnesses from public view citing threats made to some of the witnesses who testified in the trial of the first defendant.
The cost of these two lengthy trials is mounting. A report shows that to date, the tally is over $2 million.
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