|The ruling came ahead of Joshua Komisarjevsky’s trial in a deadly 2007 home invasion in Connecticut.|
Judge rejects motion to sequester witness in home invasion trial
Defense warns of tainted testimony
NEW HAVEN — A judge rejected a request yesterday by lawyers for a Connecticut man charged with a deadly home invasion to exclude the sole survivor of the crime from pretrial arguments and jury selection.
Attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky had asked that Dr. William Petit be kept out of the court proceedings. They said that Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in 2007, referred to the testimony of other witnesses when he testified at the trial of Komisarjevsky’s codefendant, Steven Hayes, who was sentenced to death last year.
Judge Jon Blue denied the motion, but said attorneys could bring up the issue at trial. Blue said witnesses are not typically sequestered before trials, but can be later if there are concerns that their testimony could be affected by that of others.
Komisarjevsky’s attorneys said some defense questions during jury selection may involve Petit’s testimony. They requested that all witnesses be sequestered from hearing the testimony of other witnesses, but yesterday’s hearing focused only on Petit.
Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes killed Petit’s wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley. Dr. Petit was beaten but survived.
Hayes was convicted last year of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit. Authorities say he and Komisarjevsky tied the daughters to their beds, poured gasoline on or around them, and set fire to their home, killing them.
Hayes and Komisarjevsky have blamed each other for escalating the crime, but prosecutors say both men were equally responsible. Jury selection for Komisarjevsky’s trial is scheduled to start March 14.
Komisarjevsky’s attorneys clashed sharply Tuesday with Blue over a scheduling issue. The argument came after another judge denied a request by the lawyers that Blue be removed from the trial, ruling that he had showed no bias in Hayes’s trial.
One of Komisarjevsky’s attorneys, Jeremiah Donovan, argued with Blue on Tuesday over Donovan’s request to schedule jury selection four days per week, instead of five, so he could handle other cases and keep his law practice running during a lengthy trial.
Blue said yesterday that some of the attorney’s comments were not appropriate, but that he would experiment with a schedule of four days per week for jury selection.
Attorneys for Komisarjevsky also want to move the trial to Fairfield County, the next county over, saying Komisarjevsky had been so “demonized’’ during the first trial that it was impossible for him to get a fair trial in New Haven.
That motion will be heard next week.