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Jury to rule on death penalty case

A CONNECTICUT jury is to hear arguments today on whether to execute a man who along with an alleged accomplice turned a smart suburban home into a house of horrors, murdering and incinerating a mother and her two girls.

The trial in New Haven, Connecticut, just outside New York, has horrified and gripped Americans.

Now defence attorneys are fighting for convicted murderer Steven Hayes’ life, even arguing that it would cost taxpayers less to keep him behind bars than to send him through the litigious process of death row.

On Thursday, Judge Jon Blue rejected the financial savings argument as “perverse”, giving a boost to prosecutors hoping to persuade the jury that Hayes deserves nothing less than execution.

According to authorities, Hayes, and a second man who has not yet been tried, entered a house in Cheshire in 2007 to rob it.

Hayes, 47, and his alleged accomplice bludgeoned the father, a doctor, into unconsciousness.

Next they forced the wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, into a car to drive to a bank and withdraw money.

Hayes then raped and strangled her back at the house.

The couple’s daughters, aged 11 and 17, were held captive, tied to the bedposts in their rooms. Finally, after the 11-year-old was raped, the victims were smothered in gasoline and set alight to burn with the entire house.

The father, William Petit, managed to escape from the cellar where he’d been locked up, blood pouring from a head wound, and fell into the street.

The same jury that convicted Hayes must now decide whether or not to impose capital punishment, while the second defendant, ex-convict Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, will be tried next year.

The attempt to derail the possibility of execution by arguing the high costs was less usual than typical arguments based on defendants’ personal qualities or mental condition.

The judge said the argument had “no moral sense”.

“A jury in the penalty phase of a capital case is charged with the task of using reasoned moral judgment, not counting dollars and cents,” he said in his ruling on Thursday.


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