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No verdict yet in Connecticut home invasion trial

October 4, 2010 6:09:07 PM PDT
A jury on Monday completed its first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the trial of a man charged with killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion.

The jury in New Haven Superior Court met for about two hours after receiving instructions from the judge. The panel will resume deliberations Tuesday. The jury foreman told the judge that a verdict was not imminent.

Steven Hayes faces 17 charges including capital felony, murder, arson and sexual assault in connection with the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, at their Cheshire home. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was beaten but survived.

If Hayes is convicted of capital felony charges, the same jury will hold a penalty phase to determine if he should receive the death penalty.

Prosecutors say Hayes and a co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is awaiting trial, tied the girls to their beds and poured gasoline on or around them before burning the house.

The defendants have tried to blame each other for escalating the crime. They had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, but prosecutors pushed for death penalty trials, defense attorneys have said.

The jury asked Monday for a definition of starting a fire and whether pouring gasoline was considered starting a fire.

Judge Jon Blue said pouring gas was not considered starting a fire and referred to his instructions in which he told the jury that the striking of a match can be the start of a fire. The jurors must conclude Hayes started the fire, the judge told them in his instructions.

A prison officer testified Thursday that he overheard a conversation in which Hayes told another inmate that he poured gasoline on the stairs but didn't believe he could be charged with arson because he didn't light it. Prosecutors said in their closing arguments that evidence suggested Hayes lit the fire because he was the last one out of the house.

Earlier, the jury asked to hear a confession state police say Hayes gave to a detective. After the judge said it would take about 45 minutes, the jury decided not to hear the testimony again.

Komisarjevsky will be tried next year.

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