NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A Connecticut judge told attorneys for a man charged with a brutal home invasion that he would not declare a mistrial over the fact that relatives of the three people killed walked out en masse before testimony about an autopsy.
The Hartford Courant reported that Jeremiah Donovan, an attorney for Joshua Komisarjevsky, sought the mistrial today, one day after the relatives walked out of court. Donovan said the relatives' departure was prejudicial to his client.
The family members were aware that the state's chief medical examiner was going to provide disturbing testimony about the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, ages 17 and 11, Donovan said. Jurors also watched as family members left, the attorney said.
Donovan asked the judge to prohibit Petit family members from pulling "any stunts like that again."
Judge Jon Blue said trial spectators are free to come and go.
Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes broke into the family's home in Cheshire in July 2007, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat and tied him and his family up. Hayes, who is on death row, was convicted last year of strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused in gas and set on fire.
Dr. Susan Williams, a state medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Hawke-Petit, testified today that she was already dead by the time the fire started in the home. Williams said Hawke-Petit, 48, was strangled. Her larynx was fractured in two places, and she was alive after the first fracture, Williams said.
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com