Petit Seeks No-Contact Order Against Murder Suspects, Defense Team

The Hartford Courant

Defense attorneys for one of the suspects in a 2007 deadly home invasion robbery in Cheshire want to reach out to family members of the victims, but Dr. William Petit and his family have refused the offer and are asking a judge to block such contact.

State Victim Advocate Michelle S. Cruz and Hakima Bey-Coon, an attorney in the advocate's office, filed a motion this week on behalf of Petit seeking a no-contact order against defendants Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, their lawyers and any other defense representatives.

Both men are accused of killing Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, in a July 23, 2007, attack inside their Cheshire home.

Petit was beaten but survived. He is expected to testify at trial, which could start early next year.

Petit wants a judge to order defense attorneys and members of their team to stop contacting him and members of his family "whether direct or indirect, in recognition of the victim's rights to be treated with fairness and to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process as guaranteed" in the state's constitution.

Last month, Petit and members of his family received letters from Sarah Anthony, a North Carolina attorney who told the family that she was a victim liaison offering "a line of communication" between the defense team and Petit and his family. Anthony said lawyers for Komisarjevsky asked her to "assist in outreach" to Petit and his family.

"My promise is to get candid answers to your questions, to give voice to your concerns to the defense team, to offer responses and information, and to try and meet your needs within the judicial process in any other ways that I can," Anthony wrote.

Jeremiah Donovan, a lawyer for Komisarjevsky, declined to comment Friday. Patrick J. Culligan, one of Hayes' attorneys, also declined to comment.

Jeffrey A. Meyer, a professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law, said the defense may be using a liaison to establish a better line of communication with people who are most important to the outcome of the case.

"The more sinister view is it's a way for the defense to try and collect information from someone who may be a key witness at trial," Meyer said.

In their motion, Cruz and Bey-Coon state that Petit and members of his family contacted the victim advocate's office shortly after receiving Anthony's letters. They said they did not want to receive any more communications from defense lawyers including "defense liaisons or any other individuals who purportedly advocate restorative justice principles," the motion says.

The motion also seeks a timetable for trial proceedings "in recognition of the victim's right to a timely disposition of the case." A judge is expected to take up the motion Tuesday, when the suspects are due in Superior Court.

The victim advocate's motion follows one filed earlier this month by prosecutors seeking a joint trial for Hayes and Komisarjevsky.

New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington and Senior Assistant State's Attorney Gary W. Nicholson filed a motion for a joint trial "for the purpose of sparing the remaining victim, family members, and witnesses the ordeal of multiple trials, and for the purpose of judicial economy."

Komisarjevsky, 28, of Cheshire, and Steven Hayes, 46, of Winsted, both face charges of capital felony and multiple murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and arson in connection with the killings. Hawke-Petit was strangled and both daughters were left bound in their beds as the house was doused with gasoline and set afire.

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