William Petit, Dad of Murdered Family, Reacts to Connecticut Death Penalty Ruling

It was a crime of epic cruelty, and the culprits were sentenced to pay the ultimate price.
Steven Hayes (Left) and Joshua Komisarjevsky  AP PHOTO/CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE
But a decision by Connecticut’s highest court means the 2 men who carried out the chilling Petit family murders will be spared execution, along with 9 other death-row inmates.
Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky now get life sentences for a 2007 home invasion robbery in which they raped and strangled Jennifer Petit, tied her daughters Hayley and Michaela to their beds, and set the home ablaze.
Petit’s sister, Cynthia Hawke Renn, told NBC News that she is “disheartened” by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s finding that a 2012 legislative repeal of the death penalty should also apply to those who committed their crimes earlier.
“I really do think that cruel and unusual crimes really do deserve cruel and unusual punishment,” she said.
“For people who commit such heinous and horrific crimes – when you torture and rape them and their children, douse them with gasoline and burn them alive – is there not something that should be worse?
“Shouldn’t there be a worse punishment out there for someone who takes a life in such a cruel and unusual way?”
Jennifer Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, who was beaten during the siege but escaped to call for help, had fought against the 2012 repeal of the death penalty. He noted in a statement Thursday that the court was divided in its ruling.
“The dissenting justices clearly state how the 4 members of the majority have disregarded keystones of our government structure such as the separation of powers and the role of judicial precedent to reach the decision they hand down yesterday.
“The death penalty and its application is a highly charged topic with profound emotional impact, particularly on their victims and their loved ones.”
Connecticut’s death row includes killers who have been there since 1989. The latest addition is Richard Roszkowski, who was sentenced last year, after legislative repeal, but was still eligible because the crime occurred in 2006.
He was convicted of killing a former neighbor, Holly Flannery, her 9-year-old daughter Kylie and a landscaper, Thomas Gaudet.
Kylie’s grandmother, Flo Tipke, said the court ruling was a blow.
“We went through two trials and now it kind of feels like it was a huge waste of time and money,” she said. “We’re very sad. We feel that the way he murdered our grandchild and our daughter-in-law was cruel and heinous and I don’t feel any punishment they could have given him would be too cruel or heinous.”
Mary Jo Gellenbeck – whose sister Diana was kidnapped and killed by another death-row prisoner, Daniel Webb – said she favors Thursday’s ruling.
“I don’t support the death penalty so I’m happy to see that Connecticut is moving in the direction of eliminating that,” she said.
Gellenbeck said her opposition to capital punishment stems in part from the danger that someone innocent could be put to death, though she is certain Webb murdered her sister.
“I think David Webb is a danger to society,” she said. “But if he is behind bars without parole, it’s what everybody wants.”
Source: NBC news, August 14, 2015


Last week, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed SB 796, which abolished life-without-parole sentences for all children.

The new law requires judges to consider both the hallmark features of adolescence as well as the scientific differences between child and adult offenders whenever children are sentenced in adult court for serious crimes. Furthermore, the law establishes special parole eligibility for children, ensuring review after serving no more than 30 years, and specifying youth-related factors for the parole board to consider.

The bill provides earlier parole eligibility for more than 200 individuals who are currently serving sentences for offenses committed while they were children.

Connecticut joins a growing number of states that have abolished the practice of sentencing children to die in prison. Nevada,Vermont, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Wyoming, and Texas also recently eliminated death-in-prison sentences for children.

CONNECTICUT – Killer sought sympathy Death row inmate complained of ‘psychological torture’ – Steven Hayes

March 14, 2014
NEW HAVEN — One of two convicts sentenced to death in a Connecticut home invasion sent suicidal letters before he was found unresponsive in his cell Monday, his attorney said Thursday.Steven Hayes remained in stable condition Thursday at a hospital, a correction department spokesman said. Hayes implied in the letters he would be dead by the time they were received, said his attorney, Tom Ullmann.”I don’t think there’s any question that it was an attempted suicide,” Ullmann said.Asked why Hayes tried to kill himself, Ullmann said, “The conditions of confinement are oppressive.” He accused rogue correctional officers of harassing Hayes, declining to discuss details except to cite the removal of items from Hayes’ cell such as an extra blanket.

Hayes, who has a history of suicide attempts, also sent a suicide note to The Hartford Courant in which he called Northern a “psychological torture chamber,” the newspaper reported.

The Courant, citing a state official familiar with the incident, reported Hayes had saved up prescribed medication, including antidepressants, and took it all at once.

Hayes, 50, is on death row for the 2007 killings of a woman and her two daughters after a night of torment inside their home in Cheshire. Another man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, also was convicted and sentenced to death for the home invasion killings.

A federal judge in November denied Hayes’ lawsuit seeking to change his conditions at Northern Correctional Institution, ruling that he did not provide any evidence that his mental health treatment was inadequate or to back up his request for changes to his diet.

Hayes also said his legal papers were confiscated as a form of harassment or retaliation. The judge said the failure of prison staff to provide a full response to that claim “gives the court pause,” but he said Hayes had not shown irreparable harm.

Hayes more recently filed an emergency motion seeking relief, saying his prison cell was too cold and that he was misdiagnosed by staff who claimed his suicidal tendencies, depression and other issues stemmed from his crime rather than his conditions.

“I would rather die than endure these conditions any longer,” Hayes wrote last month.

Hayes did acknowledge that he should be in prison.

I do not deserve to be psychologically tormented or refused proper treatment,” Hayes wrote. “To date I still suffer from deep emotional periods when I reflect on the pain I caused due to my crime and past actions.”

In court papers, prison staff members deny harassing Hayes or violating his rights. Hayes was subject to discipline after he violated rules by sitting on the floor in protest of a search of his cell and refusing to return his handcuffs upon returning to his cell, officials said.

A Department of Correction spokesman declined to comment.

The attorney general’s office, representing prison staff, said Hayes’ cell is kept at 74 degrees, not 55 degrees as he claimed, and that mental health treatment was available to Hayes but he refused it.

The Courant reported in 2012 that Hayes, who is deathly allergic to oysters, had concocted an elaborate suicide plan while on death row. He had promised to give information about unsolved killings that he lied about committing in exchange for being served oysters, hoping to die from an allergic reaction.

CONNECTICUT – Supreme Court takes up death penalty appeal – Eduardo Santiago

September 14, 2012

HARTFORD, The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the recent repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty applies only to future defendants.

The state’s highest court granted a request on Thursday by Eduardo Santiago to challenge the repeal’s impact on those who committed capital crimes before the law was passed. He was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot that promised him a broken snowmobile.

The death penalty was repealed in April, but it was preserved for 11 inmates on death row and for pending cases.

The Supreme Court overturned Santiago’s death sentence in June, saying the trial judge wrongly withheld key evidence from the jury.

Santiago’s lawyers have until Nov. 13 to file legal papers. The state will have 60 days to respond and a hearing could be scheduled early next year.

Five of the 11 inmates on Connecticut’s death are fighting their death sentences in a trial at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, the site of death row. The inmates say prosecutors’ decision-making process in death penalty cases has been arbitrary and were biased on the basis of race and geography.

Of the 11 men on death row, six are black, four are white and one is Hispanic. Of their 15 victims, 10 were white, four were black and one was Hispanic.

Santiago and two other men were convicted in the fatal shooting of Joseph Niwinski, 45, in West Hartford in 2000. Police said Santiago was promised a pink-striped snowmobile with a broken clutch in exchange for the killing.

Santiago, 32, has denied allegations that he agreed to kill Niwinski in exchange for the broken snowmobile. He was sentenced to lethal injection in 2005 after a jury convicted him, despite no clear evidence that he was the one who pulled the rifle trigger.

Connecticut was the 17th state to repeal capital punishment and the fifth in five years. In the past five decades, the state has executed only one person, serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, who pushed for his death sentence to be carried out.

CONNECTICUT – Conn. death penalty repeal to stir challenges

april 28 source :

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTW) — The repeal of capital punishment in Connecticut came too late for Richard Roszkowski, whose death penalty trial is set this year for killing three people in Bridgeport.

The case will be closely watched as a possible test of the new law that is supposed to apply only to future crimes.

The repeal measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy preserves the death penalty for the 11 inmates on Connecticut’s death row and for pending cases like Roszkowski’s. With challenges expected from defense lawyers in those cases, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and Chief Public Defender Susan Storey say state courts likely will decide whether the prospective repeal violates the rights of death row inmates and people with pending capital felony cases.

“There are very strong arguments that certainly will be made that any future executions would be unconstitutional,” Kane said.

A new argument raised by the repeal, legal experts say, is whether it violates the constitutional right to equal protection by differently treating two groups of people — those who committed capital crimes before the repeal and those who committed such crimes afterward.

It’s not clear if Roszkowski’s public defenders will use the repeal law to challenge the state’s attempts to put him on death row. Michael Courtney, supervisor of the public defenders’ capital defense unit, declined to comment on Roszkowski’s case, but said officials in his office will meet soon to discuss the potential effects of the new law.

“Ultimately that issue may well be appropriate to litigate,” Courtney said.

The state has about a dozen pending capital felony cases, although the death penalty is not being sought in all of them. Another case that may challenge the repeal is an appeal by nearly all the state’s death row inmates who allege the death penalty is arbitrary and racially biased. That case is set to go to trial in June.

Roszkowski, 47, a former Trumbull resident, was convicted of capital felony and murder in 2009 and sentenced to lethal injection for gunning down a man, woman and 9-year-old girl on a Bridgeport street on Sept. 7, 2006. But the trial judge later threw out the death sentence because of a mistake in the jury instructions and ordered a new penalty phase, which is set to begin with jury selection in June.

Prosecutors said Roszkowski killed ex-girlfriend Holly Flannery, 39, her daughter Kylie and his former roommate Thomas Gaudet, 38. Witnesses testified at trial that Roszkowski stalked Flannery after she broke off their relationship and falsely believed Gaudet was having an affair with her.

Opinions in the legal community are mixed as to whether the repeal will have any impact on current death row inmates and pending capital felony cases.

In testimony submitted to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee in March, the Quinnipiac University School of Law Civil Justice Clinic said repealing the death penalty for future murders would have no effect on current or past cases. The clinic noted that the state Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in November, and that New Mexico’s 2009 death penalty repeal for future crimes was upheld last year by that state’s Supreme Court — which is the only court in the country to have directly addressed the issue.

But Storey, the chief public defender, told the Judiciary Committee in March that a prospective repeal was certain to raise legitimate constitutional issues.

“A prospective appeal would be an important advance, but leaving existing death sentences in place would not fully implement the policy goals of repealing the death penalty,” Storey testified.

Opponents of the repeal law have said they’re worried that death row inmates could successfully argue to have their sentences commuted to life in prison. That was an argument of Dr. William Petit, the only survivor of a 2007 home invasion in which two paroled burglars killed his wife and two daughters. The two killers are now on death row.

William Dunlap, a professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law, said defense lawyers in death penalty cases will certainly raise issues related to the repeal, but he doesn’t believe they will be successful. He said equal protection violations occur when groups of people are treated differently for no good reason, but the change of the state’s capital felony law provides a good reason.

“When the (pre-repeal) crimes were committed, those people knew or certainly had reason to know that Connecticut had the death penalty,” Dunlap said.

Connecticut is the 17th state to repeal capital punishment, and the fifth in five years. In the past five decades, the state has executed only one person, serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, who pushed for his death sentence to be carried out.