NEW HAVEN ——Jurors decided Friday on the death penalty for Cheshire home invasion killer Joshua Komisarjevsky, rejecting weeks of defense evidence that portrayed him as a man damaged by childhood sexual abuse and a strict religious upbringing while struggling with longtime mental health issues.
In the end, these images endured:
A family bound for hours as two masked men ransacked their home. A mother raped and strangled. Two daughters, tied to their beds, one sexually assaulted, the other able to break free, but unable to escape her burning home. A father, viciously beaten with a baseball bat and left in the basement.
After deliberating for nearly 20 hours over five days, a jury of seven women and five men decided that Komisarjevsky, 31, a serial burglar from Cheshire, should be executed for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, during a home invasion and arson at their Cheshire home on July 23, 2007.
Komisarjevsky admitted spotting Hawke-Petit and Michaela at a local supermarket hours before the crime and following them home.
Outside the courthouse in the same spot where he had thanked jurors for sending Komisarjevsky's accomplice, Steven Hayes, to death row last November, Dr. William Petit Jr. appeared a lot tougher a year later.
"We'd really like to thank the jury for their really difficult decision," he said. "We believe justice has been served. We are satisfied that the defendant has been judged to be the murderer, rapist, the criminal that he is, and now he's been condemned to the ultimate penalty."
"We certainly have been criticized over the years that this is vengeance and blood lust, but this is really about justice."
Petit's sister, Johanna Petit Chapman, said she was thankful that the jury "saw through" the defense "and what I saw as lies" about Komisarjevsky.
"From the very beginning," Petit Chapman said, "we thought that Mr. Komisarjevsky was the leader and that he had spotted Jennifer and had spotted Michaela, and Michaela in particular, and that this was a crime of sexual predation."
Komisarjevsky himself detailed his crimes in an audiotaped police confession played for jurors at the trial.
Juror Ryan Festa, 28, of Wallingford, said that the tape was a key piece of evidence for him in deciding death for Komisarjevsky.
"The confession really put me right in the house," Festa said.
In court Friday, Petit, a prominent Connecticut physician, blinked his tear-filled eyes repeatedly as Petit Chapman sat closely beside him. Some of the more than two dozen family members and friends, most of whom attended court with him daily, clutched one another as Judge Jon C. Blue's clerk, Edjah Jean-Louis, read the verdicts one by one.
At times, Petit would glance across the room at Komisarjevsky, who was standing at a table with his three-member defense team. Komisarjevsky did not appear to react to the six death verdicts. He sometimes dropped his head and rarely looked at the jury or anyone else.
After the sentences were read, defense attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue to poll the jurors individually. One juror, Tashana Milton-Toles, gripped a tissue in her hand as she stood, looking straight ahead, emotionless, as the clerk read the jury's death verdict.
Afterward, four jurors met privately with Petit.
One of those jurors, Laura Kozma, the jury's forewoman, said the process had been challenging.
"Of course it was difficult," Kozma said. "It was a big decision to make."